Attention of National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) has been drawn to an advertorial on page 29 of Daily Trust newspaper, published 31st May, 2018. The advertorial in reference is an open letter to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha, appealing to his office to prevail on NAHCON to relocate the mandatory biometric data registration center for intending pilgrims from Borno and Yobe States to Maiduguri instead of Yola, Adamawa state capital. In the letter signed by two intending pilgrims from Borno and Yobe states; Muhammed Ibrahim and Baffa Alhaji Bukar respectively, the signatories premised their appeal to what they consider as NAHCON’s grossly improper, callous and political interests rather than strategic and humanitarian concerns.
While NAHCON understands the fears and apprehension of the complainants, the commission would like to set the record straight.
Firstly, NAHCON is not responsible for the biometric data capturing exercise nor does it determine where, when or how it is to be conducted. The Saudi Arabian authority, which made the biometric registration mandatory in the first place, has assigned a firm (VFS Tasheel) solely in charge of that. NAHCON only plays an oversight role protecting the interest of the Nigerian pilgrims. Hence, the insinuation that NAHCON chose Adamawa, as center to serve Borno and Yobe States pilgrims’ biometric registration, for any parochial sentiments is erroneous.
Indeed owing to the above reason as an arbiter for Nigerian pilgrims, it took NAHCON’s intervention through persistent efforts, with the support of the Hon. Minister of State foreign affairs, to get Saudi government to increase biometric data capturing centers in Nigeria from the initial three locations approved for the exercise to the present nine centers. In addition, NAHCON, as a Nigerian agency fully aware of the various challenges in the country, made suggestions concerning where the commission would like these centers to be located. Unfortunately, NAHCON can only suggest. The ultimate approval lies with the concerned authorities of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Hence, while some of NAHCON’s proposals were honoured by them some were not, based on their own foresight.
Moreover, it would interest the sponsors of the open letter to know that the issue of biometric data registration of Nigeria pilgrims is still inconclusive. As at the time of writing this response, a highly placed delegation had been dispatched to and is currently in Saudi Arabia on the behest of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, with a letter to King Salman Bn Abdul-Aziz of Saudi Arabia, requesting the Kingdom to either waive the biometric exercise for Nigerian intending pilgrims for 2018 Hajj, until such a time the firm handling the registration is well prepared to do so; without subjecting Nigerian pilgrims to strenuous demands, or on the alternative, the biometric capturing centers be increased to, at least, 23 points for ease of same pilgrims. Hopefully, if the President’s appeal is honored, Nigerian pilgrims for 2018 Hajj may not even have to undergo the exercise or to travel long distances for it.
Nigerian pilgrims should be rest assured that NAHCON is as concerned for their safety and ease as the pilgrims are about themselves. Thus, NAHCON is always ready to do whatever it takes, within its jurisdiction, to ensure that pilgrims get the best treatment possible.
Finally let’s remind ourselves the injunction of Almighty Allah, which says;
O you who believe! If a Faasiq (liar-evil person) comes to you with any news, verify it, lest you should harm people in ignorance, and afterwards you become regretful for what you have done Al-Qura’an 49:6.
Fatima Sanda Usara
Head of p