The Oyo State Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Board said on Friday that 995 slots have been allocated to the state by the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), for the 2019 hajj exercise.
The board chairman, Alhaji Taofeek Akewugbagold, disclosed this in Ibadan in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), while explaining the level of preparations for the 2019 hajj.
Akewugbagold said the turnout of intending pilgrims from the state for the 2019 hajj was encouraging, and that over 500 intending pilgrims have so far registered and made payments for the exercise.
According to him, some intending pilgrims were skeptical that the change in government in the state might affect the pilgrimage policy.
He further said that some private operators have been spreading false information by telling pilgrims not to pay into the board’s account because Akewugbagold would no longer be in office and pilgrims’ money may be unaccounted for.
Akewugbagold said the private operators are spreading falsehood in order to secure high patronage.
He assured intending pilgrims not to nurse any fear concerning the change in government and to pay on time, because government is a continuum.
Akewugbagold said the board will commence inoculation, blood screening and orientation for intending pilgrims by the first week of April, for them to know what was expected of them in Saudi Arabia.
“By May 20, everything needed to be done on this year’s hajj, should have been perfected based on the NAHCON time table, and I am trying to perfect it to make it easier for the incoming board.
“You know the closing date for hajj registration usually comes before the end of the Ramadan, and Ramadan will probably start on May 2.
“But all still depends on the dictates of NAHCON. But I am optimistic that every state would have submitted their pilgrims’ list after biometrics, before the end of Ramadan.
“So pilgrims should target May 31 as the closing date for hajj registration because according to the NAHCON calendar, the first inaugural flight will take off by July 6.
“And unless we perfect everything in May and use June for a review, it will be very difficult to have a hitch-free hajj exercise this year,’’ he said.
The board chairman urged the intending pilgrims to pay their hajj fare early, in order to enable the board to plan well, saying nothing can be done without money.
He said the board was currently collecting N1,247,000 for this year’s hajj fare, while the reduction or increment on the fare would depend on the directive from NAHCON and not the state.
Akewugbagold said it was no more tenable in Nigeria for pilgrims to pay a week to the hajj exercise because everything has been digitalised.
He commended the CEO of NAHCON, Alhaji Abdulah Muktar, for repositioning the hajj exercise in the country, as well as Gov. Abiola Ajimobi, for the opportunity given to him to serve.
Akewugbagold also prayed for the Oyo state governor-elect, Seyi Makinde, saying ‘God will make him surpass his predecessor’.