By Mustapha Kamilu Bakori
Two weeks ago, I visited the NAHCON new office to see things for myself. This followed series of congratulatory messages I read on the social media.
I was impressed with what I saw. Though still under renovation, I held my chin and nodded my head in awe of the intelligence that guided this decision in this age. Now, I felt pride growing in me that I am a Nigerian and this is happening in my lifetime. An organisation is buying property for government and not the other way round, nor stashing away the funds for private use. This shows prudence in line with present government’s vision of accountability.
The other pleasant news that came from the Commission was contained in the disclosure that the Commission conducted the 2019 Hajj operations 100% without funding from government. Which means the Commission, even with a tight purse, was able to introduce new concepts like the mobile caravan clinics for pilgrims, secured accommodation in Madinah GRA area without an increase in 2019 Hajj fare to make up for it, and even helped some stranded pilgrims from tour operators who were left to overstay in Makkah with 100 Saudi Riyals each. This is remarkable. I could not help but to pray to God to reward former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration for appointing Abdullahi Mukhtar Muhammad into office. I couldn’t help but to invoke blessings on President Muahammadu Buhari for the wise decision allowing the barrister to continue in office despite administrative change.
Barrister Abdullahi Mukhtar Muhammad, the NAHCON Chairman, is an unassuming man when you meet him but firm on principles. It is this doggedness on principles in the interest of pilgrims that led the Commission to record successes that seemed like mirage before now. And it is this insistence on principles that is earning him antagonism from those who wished for the rot in Hajj management to be sustained in their interest.
For instance, it was unthinkable in the past that untouchable Tour Operators will be forced to be licensed and to do the right thing or be damned. It was unthinkable that NAHCON staff would be directed to live in Tent ‘C’ Mina among the pilgrims instead of living comfortably in high brow Tent ‘A’ while pilgrims contend with distance to Jamrat and squalor. Upon assumption of NAHCON leadership, the Chairman instructed all his staff to remain with pilgrims 24/7 in the same tents, and to address anomalies instantaneously instead of waiting for post mortem reports. Of course, this order may not go down well with some members of all the aforementioned categories, but this is an ideal example of the chairman’s knack for remaining principled. And he stood by these decisions.
A method deployed in getting things done by NAHCON is in policy formulation. I particularly was impressed with one of such policies that commands airlines to accommodate pilgrims in comfortable hotels when an airline fails to convey pilgrims back home within 24 hours. The pilgrims are to be fed three hot meals daily from the airline coffers within the length of their stay. With this, if an airline fails to transport pilgrims back to Nigeria from Saudi Arabia, the carrier feels the heat from its pockets. Little surprise that one no more hears of riotous Nigerian pilgrims in Jeddah airports; abandoned like refugees seeking for mercy.
There is also this policy that demands state pilgrims’ welfare boards to hire pilgrims’ accommodations not more than two kilometres from the holy mosque in Makkah. There should not be more than five pilgrims in a room, and five pilgrims to one toilet. This checked pilgrims from past experience of herding about 12 people to a room while occupants of this and other similar ones are forced to share one toilet along the corridor of the building. New regulations safeguarding pilgrims from government quota raised the standard which made traveling under this category competitive with those of tour operators.
And this is how the leadership has been challenging business as usual from every angle. The spate of achievements, I believe must have guided the confidence reposed on the Chairman’s leadership style by the present administration. Who would not want to be associated with an achiever? I personally would not be in a hurry to part with a driver with whom I can go to bed knowing my children will be brought back from school safely and still find surplus fuel in my vehicle’s tank.
I personally give gratitude to the Almighty for giving our leaders the wisdom of taking the right decisions, at the time right times, may it also come at all times. Kudos to NAHCON family.
Bakori sent this piece from Katsina Road, Kaduna