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Global - August 19, 2022

Hajj 2022: NAHCON’s successful operation amidst hiccups

 

By Mohammad Mohammad

 

Although, 2022 hajj exercise may have come and gone, the operational undercurrents and heaps of concerns emanated from across stakeholders in the country’s hajj industry would remain indelible.

 

About 41,003 Nigerian pilgrims joined the global contingents in the annual spiritual exercise, after two years of hiatus and eventual suspension of restriction issued on foreign pilgrims by the Saudi Authority. Expectedly, the deliberate crowd control mechanisms deployed intended to cut back the spread of the deadly Covid-19 pandemic in the holy land.

 

No doubt, the reopening of the two holy mosques to international pilgrims spurred overwhelming excitement by Muslims globally. The joy knows no bound essentially to those who had long craved, devoted hard earned resources; to perform the once in the lifetime religious obligation. Yet, millions of faithful had considered the two years hiatus as an undoubted trial but rather found solace in the divine intervention.

 

Beyond the spiritual exercise, the return of 2022 hajj resuscitated the multi-million dollar industry that created job opportunities for hundreds and breached economic records by operators in the sub-sector. However, it was a mixed feeling for hajj managers who have had to muster the huge responsibility and complex task ferrying over thousands of Nigerians to the holy land within a short period.

 

Dissimilar to previous hajj preparation where Saudi Authority issued green light to participating countries to commence all offshore and onshore arrangement early enough, reverse was the case on 2022 hajj. It was common knowledge that even when the restriction was officially lifted there was no signal for clear direction how the post-Covid-19 hajj would take sharp turn. Consequently, hajj managers globally left with the task of conducting the operations within a limited period and under stringent conditions when the final notice was passed eventually.

 

The situation was not different in Nigeria. Struggling to manage documents, process visa, facilitates issuance of Basic Travelling Allowance and the conveyance of over 43,000 pilgrims to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) was embattled with a series of operational predicaments. Although, critical among the challenges recorded were not unforeseen but because of the limited period the commission had to manage the multifaceted activities that transverse the shoreline of Nigeria, most of the concern could not be resolved spontaneously.

 

Nevertheless, it is worthy of note that despite the pile of hiccups, NAHCON, under the leadership of Barrister Zikrullah Kunle successfully navigated the hurdles and even emerged stronger with commendable records. For instance, NAHCON was able to transport over 33,000 pilgrims to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and conveyed the same back home seamlessly. That in no small way is a huge success built within the tough period.

 

Similarly, NAHCON must be applauded for actualizing the long overdue Hajj Saving Scheme (HSS) for the first time in the history of hajj operations in Nigeria. Within the space of two years, the present board activated the deposits in HSS to transport pilgrims to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Before the eventual kick off, the scheme has been left inactive for several years.

 

Essentially, the efforts of the board should be lauded on excellent health service delivery rendered to Nigeria pilgrims in the just concluded exercise. For instance, the medical services rendered to hundreds of Nigeria pilgrims at one of the NAHCON health outfits sited at Misfala district in the heart of the holy city of Makka epitomized service delivery.

 

A pilgrim who attended healthcare at the clinic attested to the commitment of the medical workers to attend to sick persons. In his words, “at Misfala where I stay is always full of pilgrims and none of those pilgrims leave without being attended to or served the desired medical attentions”. That is an achievement worth celebrating.

 

NAHCON as an apex hajj regulatory body succeeded in allocating hajj seats to States Muslims Pilgrims boards and private Tour operators using performance benchmarks to ensure fairness to all. Similarly, Nigeria pilgrims who performed the 2022 hajj also arrived in the country with their Zamzam water. That means a lot to every pilgrim.

 

Despite the tireless efforts of the present board of the hajj commission, stakeholders believed there are areas requiring urgent reviews. NAHCON should consider observations, constructive criticisms and in some cases, confrontations raised by concerned stakeholders in the industry on 2022 hajj operations as critical reference points that must be addressed to avoid a repeat in subsequent operations. After all, NAHCON, as responsible regulator, regretted the entire setback recorded during the exercise even when the heaps of the challenges were orchestrated by some contracting agencies.

 

Mohammad Mohammad is a journalist from Kano State.

 

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