The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) held a vital meeting in preparation for 2018 Hajj. The meeting titled, “Final Preparatory Meeting for 2018 Hajj” was held today, 5th July at the Conference Hall of Central Mosque, Abuja. The gathering had in attendance state pilgrims’ welfare boards’ representatives, members of the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, including its chairman, Senator Monsurat Sunmonu, representative of the Honourable Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Chairman, Nigeria-Saudi Parliamentary Friendship and Hajj Affairs, representative of Ministry of Health, representatives of aviation industry, airline operators, independent Hajj operators and many others.
In his opening remarks, Chairman of NAHCON, Barrister Abdullahi Mukhtar Muhammed, disclosed that the meeting was called to review arrangements so far made in preparation for the upcoming Muslim pilgrimage, and to articulate and put finishing touches on matters already decided. Furthermore, the parley was to update all stakeholders of current developments or matters arising, while at the same time giving them a forum to rub minds.
Barrister Mukhtar revealed at the occasion that the Saudi authorities have agreed to carry out a mobile biometric data-capturing exercise: whereby the firm appointed to conduct the registration will travel from one location to the other registering intending pilgrims instead of the previous arrangement of moving the pilgrims to designated data-capturing centers. Hence, he directed states welfare boards and agencies that have fully uploaded their pilgrims’ particulars on the Hajj e-portal to mobilize their pilgrims for the assignment, which will commence from tomorrow, 6th June. He instructed the state welfare boards that are prepared to indicate their readiness and ensure that they provide the biometric data capturing officials with functional offices completely air-conditioned, with constant electricity supply and internet facility.
In another development, the Commission’s chief informed participants that the inaugural flight for 2018 Hajj is scheduled for 21st July with pilgrims from Kogi state. Whilst stressing that vaccines for the necessary inoculation of pilgrims are already made available for takeoff of the immunization activity, he warned state officials from running clinics in their pilgrim’s accommodation facilities while in the holy land, as this is against Saudi Arabian regulations. It was emphasized by him that the national medical team, comprising 60% of state nominated medical staff and NAHCON’s 40%, remains solely responsible for establishing medical centers in Saudi. Therefore, these national clinics remain the only recognized medical facilities apart from the Saudi based ones. He commended accommodation negotiation committee for their efforts in bringing down Hajj fares against all odds.
Barrister Mukhtar again urged state representatives to sensitize their pilgrims on the need to remain in their homes until their flights are called instead of putting themselves under pressure waiting at the Hajj camps.
One of the matters arising is the issue of double decker beds to be made available in Muna, at an additional cost of 150 Saudi Riyals. He informed that this was a later development communicated to NAHCON from the Mu’as’sasa establishment. Thus, any state willing to hire the beds for their pilgrims should indicate their interest for further action.
On the part of tour operators, the Chairman charged them to remain focused on the Hajj template and not to compromise standards or shortchange pilgrims of the services they have paid for.
The meeting continued with various heads of parastatals and NAHCON commissioners delivering updates on Hajj preparations under their supervision plus challenges being faced. There were discussions on way forward on diverse issues discussed.
Fatima Sanda Usara,
Head, Public Affairs.