By Fatima Sanda Usara
The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria, NAHCON, on 12 of August 2019 went on visitation to pilgrims’ tents in Minah with the goal of felicitating with the pilgrims on eid el kabir celebration as well as a fact finding mission aimed at improving on services being provided for the hujjaj. Sequel to that visitation by NAHCON officials to all state and tour operator tents, management of the Commission has already swung into action to address some of the anomalies that need immediate action.
One of the first omissions that was tackled is the creation of a clinic around Ogun and Ekiti pilgrims’ settlement. Following observations on none availability of a clinic in these states’ vicinity, the NAHCON Chairman, Barrister Abdullahi Mukhtar Muhammad, instructed the head of the National Medical Team to create one straight away. This has brought the total number of NAHCON clinics within Makkah to 10, eight stationary clinics and two mobile caravans offering primary health care.
Another complaint received during the Minah retreat was late delivery of meals. Though this problem attracts a long-term solution, one of the instantaneous actions taken by NAHCON right from Minah was the termination of contract of one of the caterers infamous for serving meals late. The situation changed considerably for those being served under that kitchen. The long-term solution will follow after a review of all assessment forms being compiled by NAHCON through its field officers under the Monitoring and Evaluation unit. Those pilgrims eligible for a refund will get one, apart from other measures that will be taken.
There was a general complaint about inadequacy of space in Minah in addition to the far distance of Nigerian tents from Jamraat. In response to these, management described the matter of spatial inadequacy as an undeniable situation that even the Saudi authorities appreciate. It was gathered that the whole Minah geographical unit is over stretched. It is reported that Saudi authorities will be studying a prototype arrangement that may open up the area. Until an expansion of Minah is reached, pilgrims will have to contend with the situation.
On complaints of indigenous meals being found unsuitable by some pilgrims due to Nigeria’s geographical variations, the NAHCON Chairman informed that NAHCON is not responsible for any state’s choice of meal but the state officials themselves who do the meal selection. Therefore, it remains their choice to resolve the situation in such a way that will suit their pilgrims the most.
The NAHCON Chairman gave update on the movement of pilgrims from Arafat to Muzdalifa disclosing that he and other senior staff where the last to vacate Arafat plains on Arafat day. Besides, four hours after every pilgrim and official had been moved from the plains, he stayed behind and personally drove round the Nigerian camps just to ensure that no pilgrim was stranded. If therefore there were reports of pilgrims trekking back to Muzdalifa, such persons must have done so on their own volition.
On a general note, efforts of the Commission were largely appreciated by most state contingents. Pilgrims that were called upon to ask questions ended up expressing gratitude to the Commission for the revered treatment they have been receiving since arrival into Saudi Arabia. Though there are exceptions, these responses are indicative of success of NAHCON’s arrangement for pilgrims’ wellbeing that has touched the very essence of the plan.
An unpleasant observation made by the NAHCON inspection team though was the indiscriminate dumping of refuse by many pilgrims despite the hundreds of sanitation assistants positioned all over the Nigerian camps. Compared to camps accommodating citizens of other countries, the Nigerian area was a blot on the landscape. It was observed that pilgrims threw trash even around their bedding areas. Management thus resolved to include intensive cleanliness campaigns on the necessity of maintaining hygiene and proper refuse disposal by pilgrims. This plan is considered in preparation of next Hajj season. Such sensitization will be included in talks by Ulama.
NAHCON leadership analysed role of the Commission in its establishment act and agreed that what the Commission has been doing constantly is to delegate responsibilities to states where such capabilities are envisaged. The meeting also observed that it is part of the Commission’s tradition to carry out wide consultations with Hajj managers so as to carry everyone along.
Usara writes frim Saudi Arabia