Nigeria’s Minister of state, Foreign Affairs, Hon. Khadija Bukar Abba Ibrahim, today signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on 2019 Hajj on behalf of the country. The agreement signing ceremony was conducted in the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, Makkah Saudi Arabia led by Dr. Muhammad Saleh bin Taher Benten, the Saudi Arabian Minister of Hajj and Umrah.
In the agreement signed, the Nigerian Hajj quota for 2019 remains 95, 000 as the previous year.
During the ceremony, Dr. Taher Benten commended the Nigerian Hajj Commission for the successful management of the 2018 Hajj operations. He appreciated the general conduct of Nigerian pilgrims during the exercise and assured of the Kingdom’s readiness to assist the Nigerian government and people in making the exercise even easier and more comfortable.
In her response, Hon. Khadija Ibrahim extended warm felicitations to the Kingdom on behalf of Nigerian government for the honorable reception of Nigerian pilgrims. She applauded all persons involved in Hajj planning for the smoothness of the exercise while observing that the task is not an easy one, though they make it seem so due to the efforts they commit during preparations.
Before the signing ceremony, a technical session chaired by Deputy Minister of Hajj, Saudi Arabia, Dr. Hussain Ibn Naser Alshariff, was held to discuss bilateral issues on Hajj and Umrah with the view of forging a way forward. Nigerian delegation to the session was led by NAHCON Chairman and among his entourage were Nigeria’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Rtd Justice Isa Dodo; Nigeria’s Consul General to Saudi Arabia, Ambassador Muhammad Sani Yunusa; Dr. Yusuf Adebayo Ibrahim, NAHCON’s Commissioner for Policy, Personnel Management and Finance; Alhaji Modibbo Saleh; NAHCON’s Commissioner for Operations, Alhaji Muhammad Galadima, Consul’s Hajj Desk Officer; Alhaji Saidi Tiggi, Desk Officer on Hajj Matters, Nigeria’s Embassy in Riyadh; and Dr Aliyu Tanko, NAHCONs Head of Inspection and Licensing.
The Saudi Arabian delegation at the meeting comprise, representative of the Minister of Interior, Majeed Al’Rakan Al’Ajami; Representative of immigration department, Yusuf Muhammad An’namri; Deputy Minister in Charge of Madinah, Muhammad Ibn AbdulRahman Albijawi; Deputy Minister in Charge of Makkah Emirate, Fahad Munir Alkhuthami; representative from Madinah Emirate, Turki Ibn Barkai Abu Raba’a and Manager in Charge of Hajj and Umrah at the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA), Mazeen Ibn Ahmad Bazuhair.
Among the issues raised by the Commission for consideration is a request for waiver of 2,000 Saudi Riyals charged on pilgrims participating in Hajj for the repeated time in less than five years and for visa issuance be made less cumbersome. It was also requested that Nigeria be included in the newly introduced arrangement tagged “Makkah Road Project”; where pilgrims will undergo all necessary immigration clearance at the airports in their home countries before proceeding to the holy land, such that, upon arrival at Saudi airports, they will simply pick their bags and proceed without further scrutiny. Another request by the Commission was for GACA to regard NAHCON as a guarantor for air carriers so that allocation of airlift slots and flight schedules can be fast tracked for the convenience of Nigerian pilgrims.
In his response, the Deputy Minister assured Nigerian delegation that the process of visa issuance will only get better as the Kingdom is keen on seeing to that. However, to curtail abuse of visa, both parties agreed to work together to address the menace of immigration violators who overstay their permit in the Kingdom. In another development, The Saudi delegation emphasized on the rule banning exportation of kolanuts into the Kingdom while calling on the Nigerian delegates to intensify enlightenment over the matter.
The host ministry treated the Nigerian delegation to a lunch feast alongside contingents from Malaysia and Iraq.
The MoU signing meeting is an annual event whereby countries are invited separately to commit to agreements that will shape their participation in the yearly pilgrimage. Nigeria is honored rank among the early nations to be invited for the prestigious ceremony.
Fatima Sanda Usara,
Head, Public Affairs Division,