By Mousa Ubandawaki
History was made on Sunday 4th October 2020 in Kano, when National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) sponsored Hajj Savings Scheme (HSS) was formally launched and its operations officially kicked-off at an elaborate ceremony witnessed by Political, Religious, Traditional and Institution leaders.
The achievement duly placed the Commission on the high pedestal and no doubt on the right side of history, being the first Hajj mission in the sub-region and perhaps Africa to have an institution exclusively devoted to accepting contributions, savings for the purpose of performing the holy pilgrimage to Makkah.
Having achieved the above, the Commission has now shifted its focus to the establishment of an exclusive Training Institution that will provide knowledge and serve as a new home for professional Hajj Managers and Administrators.
As one of the countries with the largest pilgrims in the world, 5th behind Indonesia, Bangladesh, Pakistan and India, the Nigerian pilgrims and Administrators have often been chided for unorganized behaviour, indiscipline, rude and uneducated, while its officials are blamed for lack of leadership, coordination and nonchalant attitude by many Saudi Agencies and Authorities. Infact, the lists of complaints are endless and inexhaustive.
Further down the line, in 2016, the former Chair of the Commission, Barr. Abdullahi Mukhtar Muhammad, MON, FCIA undertook a familiarization visit and Study Tour of some Hajj Missions, notably Pakistan, Bangladesh, South Africa, Niger Republic, which revealed a glaring gap between those countries and Nigeria especially in the area of leadership, human resources and capacity.
Also, on a deeper perspective, the constant routine changes in Administrators, especially at the state level, where Executive Secretaries are charged at will leading to disruptions in programme and personnel. Most times, the appointed Secretaries spent long period learning on the job as they had little or no knowledge or experience about Hajj operations.
It was perhaps for these reasons and others like saving the country’s scarce resources spent by states and NAHCON in sponsoring delegates to the World Hajj and Umrah Convention in London annually. By the last count, more than 100 Nigerian Officials used to attend the annual convention which has come to serve as a stop-gap for dearth of manpower This made the Commission to moot the idea of Hajj Institute as a redemptive measure to address those noticeable gaps.
The Institute in the thinking of the Commission will offer unique opportunities to have professionally trained Hajj Managers and Administrators that will build attitudinal change and purposeful leadership from among the pilgrims and managers.
It is envisioned that the Institute will be a “…a world-class centre of excellence for the training off Hajj Managers in line with the tenets of Islam.”
This is how the Chairman/CEO of NAHCON, Alh. Zikrullah Kunle Hassan addressed the issue. “We have identified there is a gaping hole in the management of Hajj across board and we have come to the conclusion that Hajj management should no longer be left to the Charlatans. It needs to be professionalized like other sectors of the economy. And we can only do this through certifies courses.
“Experience had shown that we can aspire to the pinnacle or Zenith of Hajj management if our officials are well trained and educated on the witty-gritty of Hajj. And this is what the institute will produce – high, middle and lower-level cadres to serve the manpower need of the bourgeoning Hajj sector,” he said.
Other objectives of the Institute include Organized training, Workshops, Conferences, Seminars, and Discussion Forum on the proper and adequate handlings of Hajj and Umrah and the Hujjajis. Collect, analyse and document data on the efficient management, smooth operations and adequate handling of Hajj affairs. Undertake and promote Research in various aspects of Hajj and Umrah, Publish Books, Manuals, Pamphlets and video clips on Enlightenment and Education of Intending pilgrims and officials. Train Teachers, Preachers, and Welfare officials in disseminating the knowledge of Hajj\Umrah. To develop enlightenment, mobilization and sensitization programmes on Hajj\Umrah strengthen intellectual dialogue and set minimum standard.
To achieve this dream, the Commission has begun “walking the talk” with the submission of an application to the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) for registration apart from the fact that it had engaged Bayero University Kano (BUK), for partnership especially in the Introduction Certificate Programme or Special Purpose Institute to cater for the need of the Hajj Industry.
When the Institute is finally granted operation license, it would help in the long term in production of specialists and professional Hajj Managers who in turn will lead the way in attitudinal charges of pilgrims and reshape Hajj management in the country.
HURDLES BEFORE THE OPERATION LICENSE
Some of the constituents obstacles bedevilling the proposed take-off of the Hajj Institute along the way is the promulgation of an enabling law. To establish an educational Institution requires an Act of Parliament that will provide legal rights.
Moreover, the Commission also had to contend with crossing the hurdle of registration with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) which stipulated Submission of a Bank Guarantee of N100,000,000 (One Hundred Million Naira) and a Certificate of Occupancy (COfO) of the Institution’s land not less than 10 hectares. Other requirements include establishing industry occupational standards, the Training providers, Sector Skill Council, Regulator and Quality Assurance Manager.
With the Commission having obtained approval in principles from NBTE and partnership agreement with the authorities of BUK, it may not be long before the Hajj Institute of Nigeria becomes New Voice Call of the Commission which hopefully will help its efforts to re-educate and re-engineer the behaviour of Nigerian Hujjaj. Indeed, the Institute will not only open Nigeria to the world but also become a rainbow in the cloud of Hajj in future.
Ubandawaki is of the Information and Publication Division of NAHCON.