The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria, NAHCON, has said that the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, NSCIA, was “fully” involved in the process of negotiations that led to the of 2017 Hajj fares.
This was made known on Tuesday by the commission in response to a press statement by the NSCIA, In the statement, NSCIA said that “it was not consulted before the fares were announced” The statement reads in part it is “of the view that Hajj-fare can be less than it is, if all parties are genuinely consulted for an appropriate solution and strategy.”
In the statement signed by its Director of Organisation, Isa Okonkwo, the organisation also called for an urgent amendment of the NAHCON Act while calling on the Nigerian government to hand over hajj matters to it ( NSCIA).
However Speaking at a media parley organized by the FCT chapter of Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, in Abuja, the secretary to the commission, Mohammed Tambuwal said that position could not be that of the NSCIA.
He said that Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs has a member K.K Oloso in the NAHCON Board. He ” is a Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies in the University of Ibadan. and he was part of the committee that negotiated and fixed the hajj fares”.
Mr. Tambuwal also said apart from the NSCIA, a representative of the Jama’atu Nasril Islam also sits on the board and was also part of the negotiating team on the fares. “So I believe the press statement is the opinion of the writer and not that of the NSCIA management,” He said NAHCON keeps NSCIA updated “on all processes and developments including negotiations on the Hajj fare”.
Nahcon Has Lived Up To Its Responsibilities
The Secretary of the commission also said the commission has greatly improved Hajj operations since coming on stream in 2006.
He said before the coming of NAHCON Hajj operations have been under ad hoc arrangements which leads to ” late airlift and return of pilgrims, shortfall in medical arrangements and inadequate welfare for pilgrims”.
He said NAHCON has now standardized hajj operations with little or no complains.
” We have put in place standards, rules and regulations which has eliminated delays in Airport. Our Pilgrims normally get airlifted nit more than two hours after arriving the Airport.
” Service providers are made to provide accommodation close to Haram and where it is not close, they are made to provide transport arrangements for our pilgrims,” he said.
Mr. Tambuwal said the commission also introduced feeing, starting with one meal a day and then two meals since 2016 hajj.
He also said NAHCON has solved the problem of luggage handling which used to be a major problem.
He said pilgrims are only allowed to carry an 8kg cabin bag while the 32kg bag is weighed on Makkah and transported back to Nigeria.
He said for pilgrims who have excess luggage, the commission has engaged cargo companies who handle the luggages for pilgrims.
“Even 5 litre Zamzam water is now transported back to Nigeria and given to Pilgrims on arrival,” he said.
The NAHCON scribe said airlift of pilgrims is so smooth of recent such that airlift of Nigerian pilgrims was concluded seven days ahead of time last year.
On Accommodation, Mr. Tambuwal said the introduction of e tract by the government of Saudi Arabia and the reforms introduced by the commission has eliminated the use of agents to source for accommodation for Nigerian pilgrims.
“The e tract system allows the commission to deal directly with Hotel and accommodation owners. Using agents cause delays,” he said.
He also said the new reform has cut down on the cost of accommodation by as much as $1million compared to last year.
Speaking earlier, the NUJ chairman, Paul Abechi said the council organised the parley as part of its efforts “to bring MDAs to give account of their stewardship”.
On Mashair, Mr. Tambuwal said all pilgrims are now transported to Muna and Arafat on time “including the sick unless if they are in intensive care”.
He said Saudi Arabian authorities provides ambulances and medicaments for sick pilgrims to enable them observe Arafat.
He added that the country used to have VIP and then pilgrims tents in mina.
He said the Pilgrims tents are about four kilometer distance to the Jamarat.
He said the commission has since 2016 eliminated the use of VIP tents and all Nigerian Pilgrims stay in the same place.
The NAHCON scribe then called on the media to always verify information at their disposal from either the commission or relevant agencies.
Hajj saving scheme
Mr. Tambuwal said the commission is planning to introduce a Hajj saving scheme for intending pilgrims. “the Saving scheme is to allow Nigerians save for hajj over a period of time. It will also be used as investment by an independent firm,” he said