By Abdulsalam Mahmud
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the National Hajj Commission (NAHCON), Barr. Dhikrullah Hassan, awaiting his confirmation by the Senate, having been nominated by Mr. President as the new NAHCON boss, will soon start to pilot affairs of the commission. And not only that, he will have nothing arduous to do than to build on the rich legacies already bequeathed by his immediate-past predecessor, Barrister Abdullahi Mukhtar Muhammad.
The introduction of the Automated Pilgrims Management System (APMS) is one outstanding feat recorded by NAHCON under the dynamic leadership of Mukhtar Muhammed. There is no gainsaying the efficiency of the APMS as it will only be enhanced if the incoming NAHCON boss technically improves the system. Then, there is the decentralisation of Hajj fares, which the commission introduced in 2017. Ever since, each state of the federation proposed the contents and amounts it intended to charge its pilgrims.
Hassan and his team must sustain this laudable policy, to ensure that States Pilgrims’ Welfare Boards do not arbitrarily and exploitatively fix Hajj fares that will milk intending pilgrims. It is on record that the ‘national reception team’ constituted during the administration of Barr. Mukhtar, has helped to sanitise the operations of the commission at Jeddah and Madina airports. Now, with even less staff, arrivals into and departures from Saudi Arabia are more organised and efficient. The tenure of the ex-NAHCON boss facilitated the unification of media activities in Saudi Arabia after setting up the ‘National Media Team’.
The media team carries the representatives of all media organisations going on Hajj, and assists them carry out their activities in a coordinated fashion. Kudos to Abdullahi Mukhtar, there is now an improvement in the quality and quantity of food served to pilgrims at various locations of the pilgrimage. This is to prevent them from patronising illegal food vendors. With the Hajj saving scheme, those still praying to perform the Hajj have been giving a lifeline, even as NAHCON, under Abdullahi Mukhtar, established a training institute to cater for pilgrims’ educational needs. Amid the sterling achievements of Barr. Mukhtar Muhammad, which have remodelled the face of Hajj operations in Nigeria, the coming of Barr. Hassan, should usher in a new dawn for NAHCON. Hassan’s enviable intellectual pedigree and managerial acumen, indeed have already made the task of sustaining the legacies of his predecessor a lot easier for him.
Thus, he must hit the ground running after his confirmation, in a bid to take NAHCON to the ‘Next Level’. Since the 2020 Hajj exercise is just a few months away, the incoming NAHCON boss, should start making preparations. Credible and competent Hajj tour operators should be recruited to transport pilgrims to the Holy Land. To guarantee decent accommodation for pilgrims, it is pertinent that Barr. Hassan and his team inspect available hotels, and tents to be provided for Nigerian pilgrims in Saudiyya, prior to the Hajj commencement. More importantly, there should be close proximity between the accommodations and the two Holy Mosques in Makkah and Madina.
The transportation logistics for pilgrims in the Holy Land, and their feeding arrangements should also not be left to chance, as NAHCON prepares for this year’s Hajj exercise. Initiatives such as the Hajj savings scheme, and Training Institute, are two things the NAHCON new helmsman must nurture for them to realize their full potentials of enhancing Hajj operations, among others. Conscious of the verdict on his tenure in some years ahead, there is need for the new Sheriff at NAHCON to be receptive to brilliant ideas, and practical suggestions offered by well-meaning individuals and critical stakeholders on the most effective way to pilot the affairs of the commission.
He should however not refuse to hearken or draw lessons from their objective criticisms. Additionally, he should be pragmatic in formulating sound administrative polices and reforms that will enhance smooth operations and management of Hajj and Umrah activities for pilgrims. To cap it all, the new NAHCON management team spearheaded by Barr. Hassan, should assiduously put machineries in place to address lingering challenges in diverse areas of Hajj operation, in spite of the extraordinary accomplishments still recorded by the purposeful, but visionary ‘squad’ of Barrister Abdullahi Mukhtar Muhammad. It is a task that must be taken with all sense of responsibility and abiding obligation. Abdulsalam Mahmud wrote from Abuja firstname.lastname@example.org,
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