Murtala Adewale, Kano
Concerned with the myriad of challenges impeding seamless Hajj and Umrah operations in the country, the House of Representatives committee on Pilgrims Affairs has considered a pragmatic legislative review of an Act establishing the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) to meet global dynamics.
NAHCON, which was established by the Act of National Assembly in September, 2006 and became fully functional as a Commission in 2007, finally replaced the defunct Directorate of Pilgrims’ Affairs under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Chairman of the committee, Hon. Abubakar Hassan Nalaraba who gave the indication during the weekend in Kano at the opening of a retreat with the theme “ Building Capacity Towards Effective Oversight for Optimal Hajj Operations in Nigeria” maintained the national assembly is prepared to provide legislative support to remodel NAHCON in order to meet global best practice.
Abubakar who declared that legislative oversight on NAHCON activities had largely reduced wastage and guaranteed degrees protection of Nigeria Pilgrims over the years, reminded that evaluation of the fifteen years old Act will accommodate new Saudi Arabia regulations on hajj and Umrah and international air travel protocols as occasioned by COVID-19 pandemic. The chairman drew the attention of hajj commission on the activities and relationship between the pilgrims and travel agencies to check the habit of inflicting an untold hardship on their passengers
The lawmaker however expressed worries on perennial complaints of pilgrims on inefficient and expensive services from service providers in the holy land as well as “shoddy arrangements by the state pilgrims’ board, challenging state assembly legislators to strengthen laws establishing their pilgrims’ boards for effective service delivery.
“ It is obvious that with so many new protocols in place for hajj and umrah operations, and with the recent changes in regulations for international air travel to tame the spread of COVID-19. The laws governing the establishment of the National Hajj Commission most certainly need to be fine-tuned to accommodate these changes for the next and future hajj and umrah operations.
“We must start now to overhaul the whole system of hajj and umrah not just in the federal but in states levels as well, so that we are not caught flat footed once the Saudi authorities give the green light for the resumption of full hajj and umrah services. As representatives of the people, we must, as a legislature, ensure that our people are well served by the agencies of government responsible for providing them with crucial services.
NAHCON Chairman, Barrister Zikrullah Kunle Hassan, on his part, reassured the legislature of the commitment of the fifth board to transform hajj services in Nigeria through dynamic leadership and foresight. Barrister Zikrullah revealed that NAHCON under his leadership is determined to ensure affordability and stability of hajj fare despite the present increase in the exchange rate of Naira to Dollar. Barrister Zikrullah emphasized that amendment of NAHCON Act will enable the commission to actualize its set goals and match operations with modern realities.
He reminded that NAHCON has successful kick-start of Hajj Savings Scheme (HSS) aimed at cultivating saving culture and offers intending pilgrims a long term contributory platform to pay for hajj gradually within a desired period. The NAHCON boss explained that establishment of Hajj Training Institute is another passionate target plan to train managers on professionalism in the hajj industry.