Home Hajj News NEWS ANALYSIS: The Arithmetic that Favours Nigeria’s Participation in Hajj 2021
Hajj News - March 4, 2021

NEWS ANALYSIS: The Arithmetic that Favours Nigeria’s Participation in Hajj 2021

 

 

By Ibrahim Muhammed

National Coordinator

Independent Hajj Reporters

 

Though, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah is yet to make any announcement about Hajj 2021 nor has the Ministry of Hajj pen down Memorandum of Understanding with Hajj participating countries; but the policy formulations and pronouncements made by the ministries’ officials and agencies that work on Hajj and Umrah related matters suggests that indeed, Hajj 2021 will take place, God’s willing.

 

The latest being the statement made by Saudi Arabian Minister of Tawfig Al-Rabiah on Monday. In which he announced that COVID-19 vaccination will be a major requirement for performing Hajj this year.

 Al-Rabiah ordered the formation of a COVID-19 vaccination committee for Hajj pilgrims, stressing that only those vaccinated against the coronavirus will be allowed to participate in the 2021 Hajj.

 

This is the most authoritative and strongest statement made so far as regards the conduct of Hajj 2021 by any Saudi Arabian high profile official.

 

Tawfig Al-Rabiah also called for early preparation to secure the manpower required to operate health facilities in Makkah, Madinah and the ports of entry for pilgrims for Hajj 2021.

 

Though, Al-Rabiah did not specify the number of pilgrims that Saudi Arabia will receive this year. He also did not mention whether the number will be limited as it was done in the 2020 Hajj.

 

Will this year’s Hajj quota remain as the status quo; will it be reduced to say, 50, 30 or even 20 per cent of each country’s allocation?

The waiting game continues.

 

It is noteworthy that “the Ministry of Health had on Sunday emphasized that “there are no recommendations either for medical isolation after receiving coronavirus vaccine or for a laboratory test before receiving vaccine shots”.

 

The intent and purpose of this statement may be linked with plans to allow pilgrims who had been vaccinated to perform his/her Umrah or Hajj without having to observe the 3 days quarantine currently being observed by Umrah Pilgrims.

First Batch of Nigerian Umrah Pilgrims undergoes Covid-19 test in Saudi Arabia

Another possible reason is to allow a blanket vaccination of all Hajj pilgrims irrespective of whether they are positive or negative after undergoing Covid 19 test on arrival in Saudi Arabia.

 

Section Hajj 2021, sub-section first requirements: Pilgrims must undergo Covid 19 test and pilgrims must be vaccinated against Covid 19.

 

Let’s move further.

 

Also recently, the Minister of Hajj and Umrah Mohammed Saleh Benten said “there are concerted efforts of government and private agencies in Saudi Arabia to cope well with the pandemic, and has “mobilized all its energies and capabilities to serve Islam, Muslims and all those who want to come to the Kingdom.”

 

The Minister further said, “we were able to expect not to see the random crowding that used to happen in previous years in the holy sites. This year, there will be specific standards set for services to pilgrims in Makkah and Madinah, whether they are performing Umrah or Hajj rituals”.

 

For the sake of emphasis, He said: “this year, (Hajj 2021), there will be specific standards set for services to pilgrims in Makkah and Madinah, whether they are performing Umrah or Hajj rituals”

 

Deductively, a new set of regulations guiding the contracting and usage of pilgrims’ accomodation, bus services, conduct of Hadaya, movement within and staying in Mashair areas may be cooking.

 

Remember that hajj participating countries are yet to sign memorandum of understanding that could have provides a compass on those services mentioned above.  More analysis on this later.

 

The Minister was speaking during a seminar about the successful efforts of the Kingdom to manage the Grand Mosque in Makkah and the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah throughout the pandemic. The session was part of the 20th Scientific Forum for Hajj, Umrah, and Visit Research.

 

Another ‘green light’ is the establishment of an emergency first aid service center named “Haram Emergency Center 1” inside the Grand Mosque in Makkah to provide emergency health services to all visitors and pilgrims recently. The center is equipped with modern medical equipment to deal with all cases and to ensure the safety and health of pilgrims.

 

The emergency health services mentioned here implies possible large number of pilgrims being expected during hajj.

 

It is noteworthy that prior to Hajj 2020, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia suspended both Hajj and Umrah for local and international pilgrims and even closed the two Holly Mosques for local worshippers.

 

Hajj 2020 was extraordinary; participants were limited to Saudi Arabia alone and the number of pilgrims was limited to around 10,000, compared to around 70,000 locals pilgrims that performed Hajj in 2019.

 

Fast forward to pre Hajj 2021, the temporary suspension of both local and international Umrah pilgrims has been lifted and the two Holy Mosques are now receiving pilgrims. Hajj 2021 is loading.

 

Will Nigeria participate in Hajj 2021?

 

First, the good news is that more than 300 Nigerians has so far performed Umrah despite the application of Covid 19 protocols by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Allowing Nigerian Umrah pilgrims to enter the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia shows that Nigeria ln Pilgrims will be allowed to participate in Hajj 2021.

 

The entry and exit of Nigerian Umrah pilgrims without any recorded case of Covid 19 within the Hajj rites sites is a good development for the country.

 

Remember that last week. Pakistan’s Minister for Religious Affairs, Noor-UL-Haq Qadri has said that he is aware that “Saudi government is closely monitoring the coronavirus situation and collecting data from all countries.

 

For that reason, if Saudi Arabia decides to use prevalence of Covid -19 as a yard stick for participation in hajj 2021, then the arithmetic will be in favour of Nigeria.

 

Currently, Nigerian infection rate is lower compares to other top 5 hajj participating countries.

 

Pakistan with an estimated population of 225,199,937 people has 583,000 Covid 19 cases with 547,000 people recovering and 12, 938 deaths.

Bangladesh has a population of about 166 million people.  The country has 547, 000 recorded cases with 489,000 recovery and 8, 423 deaths.

 

Iran with an estimated population of about 84 million people recorded 1.64 million Covid 19 cases with 1.4 million recovery and 60,181 deaths.

 

Egypt with a population of about 104 million People has a database of 184, 000 cases with 142,000 recovery and 10, 778 deaths.

 

Indonesia with a population of 273,523,615 people has 1.34 million Covid 19 cases with 1.15 million recoveries and 36, 235 deaths.

 

However, Nigeria with an estimated population of 206 million people only recorded 156,000 Covid 19 cases with 134,000 recoveries and 1, 915 deaths.

 

Nigeria has the least infection and death rate among top Hajj countries.

 

More importantly, is that over 75 percent of Nigerian intending pilgrims come from rural areas while Covid 19 infection database is derived from urban populations. 60 – 70 percent of that 75 percent has little or no contact with the inner city. Areas where the largest numbers of registered pilgrims resides has the lowest infection rates in Nigeria. Jigawa, Gombe, Kebbi, Sokoto, Kano, Kwara, Maiduguri, Bauchi, Nasarawa, Yobe, Zamfara and Katsina.

 

Given the above, Nigeria should be among the first class country if Covid 19 infection rate is used as yard stick for participation in Hajj 2021.

 

The above arithmetic were accompanied more importantly, by the appointment and resumption of the new Saudi Arabian Ambassador to Nigeria, His Excellency Faisa EL Ibraheem AL Ghamdi which is also a pointer that the Kingdoms is making preparations to welcome Nigerian pilgrims in Hajj 2021.

 

The new ambassador of Saudi Arabia to Nigeria, His Excellency Faisa EL Ibarheem AL Ghamdi officially presented his letter of credence to President Muhammadu Buhari on 28th January 2021.

 

His predecessor, Late Ambassador Adnan Bostaji died on 4TH February 2020 and since then, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia did not appoint a replacement till this year.

 

Above analysis has established one fact and that is: Hajj 2021 will take place and international pilgrims will be allowed to participate. Secondly, that Hajj 2021 will be conducted under certain protocols.

 

The onus now lies on the relevant Hajj stakeholders to plan in a more projective manner, prepare and wait for formal announcement by Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah and also prepare for a worst case scenario.

 

Finally, my X-ray focuses not on the body languages rather it was based on the ‘voice languages’ of high profile officials of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in respect of Hajj 2021.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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