By Mousa Ubandawaki
The NAHCON (National Hajj Commission of Nigeria) in collaboration with JAIZ Bank launched the much-awaited HSS (Hajj Savings Scheme). The programme or initiative is a unique and creative way to reduce the cost of Hajj and make seamless preparation for Hajj.
Though contained in the NAHCON Establishment Act 2006, the Commission over the last decade have been making effort to bring the implementation of the initiative into fruition through strategic and comprehensive consultation with stakeholders, meetings and Study Tours to Malaysia, Indonesia and many of the A-plus Hajj countries.
The NAHCON and media have been singing from the hymn sheet recently when finally the Commission and its partners rolled out the cymbal and drum for the official commencement of the project.
The Hajj Savings Scheme which is patterned after the Malaysian Tabung Hajj is an effort at self-sustaining and funding of the Commission, but most importantly, it offers Muslims opportunity to save for the journey of a lifetime.
The scheme which is a semi-contributory is meant to improve the social and economic well-being of the Muslims in particular and Nigerians in general.
While declaring the Scheme open, the Chairman/CEO of NAHCON, Alhaji Zikrullah Kunle Hassan commended the foresight of the founding fathers and the preceding boards for their unflinching commitment and dedication to build financial independence for the Commission.
While paying tributes to his predecessors, whose efforts he said had given birth to the day’s event. He said “I want to salute the spirit and good intention of the formulators of the Act as well as the doggedness of the past leadership of the Commission – Mallam Muhammad Musa Bello and Barrister Abdullahi Muhammad Mukhtar – who have steadfastly made very significant progress to address and implement the Hajj Savings Scheme through many study visits to countries like Malaysia, Indonesia and uncountable meetings with relevant stakeholders to come up with this working tool.
“Today, we are launching the decade-old innovative scheme which has been in the pipeline even before the establishment of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON). The launching of the Bank-led option is designed to fast-track and press forward the implementation of the scheme. In other words, the events of today is, but just a stop-gap to secure the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) license to operate the scheme as a full-fledge business entity”, he added.
In his speech, the Minister of FCT, Mallam Muhammad Musa Bello, praised NAHCON, for bringing the Scheme into reality. According to him, “I must therefore commend the current management of NAHCON for its determination to see that the Scheme is up and running to meet the objectives for which it has been established through its partnership with JAIZ Bank.
“I hereby call on intending pilgrims from the FCT to take advantage to the provisions of the Hajj Savings Scheme to save up and experience a stress-free pilgrimage.
“The FCT Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Board will continue to work very closely with NAHCON and we pledge to continue to key into and take advantage of the various forward-looking policies for the benefit of our intending pilgrims.
“As we witness the launch of the Hajj Savings Scheme today, I pray that Allah rewards all those who participated and those still participating in actualizing this project”, he added.
With the scheme off the block, it will be a goodbye to sky rocketing Hajj fare for Nigerian pilgrims. It means in no distant future, the constant revolving door that is called Forex may no longer affect the Hajj fare negatively as it had been the case.
Over the last decade, the cost has been on the upward swing which has been wrongly attributed to NAHCON. At a point, some even query the moral leadership of the Commission in serving the interest of Nigerian pilgrims based on what they perceive as its weakness or inability to arrest spiral cost.
However, with the contributory scheme in place, intending pilgrims can make payments over a long term thereby removing the burden from beneficiaries pilgrims of looking for big money.
Not minding the bureaucratic bottleneck that had hampered its commencement due to non-constitution of Boards of Trustees, the new Board worked around this by instituting a stop-gap or temporary measure by partnering with JAIZ Bank to commence work. The strategy was aimed at enhancing professionalism which is vital to success.
Among the many other benefits that would also manifest when the Scheme fully come on stream includes alignment of the country’s Hajj system to global standard. According to the managing Director of JAIZ Bank PLC, Mallam Usman Hassan, the partnering outfit with NAHCON, that apart from the pilgrims, the Bank and NAHCON, the country too is bound to enjoy tremendous benefit from the arrangement.
He said that the concept will make the Hajj Industry self-sustaining as well as offering subsidy to the cost of Hajj, adding, “it will assist the depositors to not only perform Hajj with ease, but they would also share from the profit generated from their deposit.”
Ubandawaki contributed the piece from Abuja