Legacies of Hajj.
- Forging Socio-Economic ties
The first legacy is, therefore, the establishment of economic and social ties. Hajj has facilitated commerce along all its routes, resulting in inter-ethnic marriages and the establishment of notable Nigerian families in Saudi Arabia.
- Unity of the Nigerian Muslim Ummah
Through Hajj, the Nigerian Muslim Ummah are always united irrespective of ideological differences. The National Ulama Team has covered much ground in this regard. All the Ulama gather on Arafat day to pray for Nigeria irrespective of sect or language.
- Unity of Nigeria in Saudi Arabia
Before the establishment of NAHCON, Nigeria operated in Saudi Arabia with many states having banners and stands and in Jeddah airport. The formation of a National Reception Team and later a National Medical Team has unified the Nigerian contingent to the Hajj in recent years.
- The strength of organisation and numbers
The numerical advantage of Nigeria (the 7th largest contingent in 2017 Hajj) along with its improved efficiency in organizing Hajj has made it the toast of many service providers in Saudi Arabia. In addition to services rendered to pilgrims, some companies, upon the invitation of NAHCON are considering making investments in the hospitality, transportation and agricultural sectors in Nigeria.
- Spread of Islam without bloodshed
People embarking on the Hajj by road had cause to pass through many settlements and caused the conversion to Islam of such settlements by peaceful means. Similarly, knowledge was being spread along the routes as some learned scholars settled in some cities to spread knowledge on their way to Hajj.
From the point of view of the commission, its greatest achievement is that of stabilizing Hajj operations in Nigeria. Gone are the days when Nigeria sought for extension of deadlines for airport closure. The usual rowdiness associated with pilgrims’ airlift both in Nigerian and Saudi Arabian airports has been virtually eliminated. Pilgrims now travel in a more organized manner with more comfort compared to what obtained before the establishment of NAHCON.
Similarly, the commission has ensured the total elimination of briefcase companies in providing all Hajj and Umrah related services to Nigerians. This has increased the confidence Nigerians have on Tour Companies and any NAHCON licensed service provider.
The abscondment rate of pilgrims has been reduced to the barest minimum that the Saudi Minister of Hajj, Dr Muhammad Saleh Benten advised other countries to adopt Nigeria’s methods of reducing abscondment cases to the barest minimum. In terms of finance, NAHCON has moved from being a burden on government and gradually attaining financial independence in line with the vision of its founding fathers. The commission now funds its entire onshore operations without requiring a kobo from government. It has also depended less on government for its offshore operations, from 69% dependence in 2014 to 23% in 2017.
In the larger context of Nigeria and in line with the theme of this symposium, Hajj operations under NAHCON has served as a unifier of the Muslim Ummah and a bridge builder. It might interest this gathering to know that NAHCON and the Nigeria Christian Pilgrims Commission (NCPC) were once sharing the same office at the commission’s property in Malumfashi Close, Abuja.
The NCPC eventually secured its permanent office and became its own landlord. When NAHCON eventually purchased Metro Plaza to serve as its Headquarters, the entire leadership of the NCPC were there to participate and celebrate with us. As we speak, the two organizations are embarking on a nationwide campaign to tackle the problems caused by religious discord and its attendant consequence on harmonious co-existence of the two major religions. This is in addition to the efforts of our Royal fathers and other organizations.
The legacies of Hajj can be summarized by quoting Dr Usman Bugaje who, in one of his conference papers delivered in 1996 said:
“Hajj is one source through which this Islam is nourished and by strengthening it the government is helping its own war against crime and such other vices. Similarly, hajj, like any journey abroad, is an effective education, and the more educated the citizenry the easier it should be for their government …. Yet hajj has always been and still remains one of the most effective international trade links, not only with the Middle East but also with the Far East”
I want to seize this opportunity to appreciate the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the giant strides it has recorded in managing Hajj over the years. Their ability to successfully host about two million foreign visitors despite some of the challenges witnessed deserves a global commendation.
It will be in the interest of Hajj that the Saudi Arabian Government considers spearheading a world conference on Hajj and Umrah to unify and forestall external organizations from cashing on the absence of such. The Kingdom should also consider the peculiarities of countries when introducing new policies. The recent introduction of only three biometric capture centres to serve entire Nigeria is an example of such. Nigeria is not against the introduction of biometric capture as a pre-requisite for the issuance of visa but is concerned about the non-readiness of the company appointed to undertake the exercise.
Your Highnesses, Ladies and Gentlemen. Please permit me to state at this juncture that the Hajj exercise in Nigeria has reached a stage in which certain standards have been set and sustained. Any attempt to roll back the progress achieved will be met with great resistance from the Nigerian public. Despite the successes I have enumerated, the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria is run by human beings and any human endeavour is prone to short-comings and mistakes. It is on this premise that I plead with you all to call our attention where we go wrong. We always welcome constructive criticism and any advice that will assist us to improve our services to the pilgrims. We call on the general public to excuse our short-comings and encourage us where it is established that we have done well.
Outlining the Legacy of Hajj in Nigeria will not be complete without appreciating great names that have contributed to Hajj, some of whom I have mentioned. We appreciate the contributions of those who have shaped Hajj in Nigeria beginning with Alhaji Sir Abubakar Imam, Sir Ahmadu Bello the Sardauna of Sokoto and Sheikh Abubakar Mahmoud Gumi the pioneer Chairman of the National Pilgrims’ Board. May Allah SWT have mercy on their souls and reward their efforts which we are reaping today. The same goes to the founding fathers of NAHCON; The 19th Sultan of Sokoto, Alh Muhammadu Maccido, Prof Jibril Aminu, Dr Usman Bugaje, Alhaji Yayale Ahmed, Mal Nasiru El-Rufai, Dr Hammeed Bobboyi and Mal Nuhu Ribadu. We will not forget the important roles played by the Islamic Trust of Nigeria (ITN) and the Waff Road Mosque Forum for their contributions to bringing Hajj to the national discourse. I want to use this opportunity to appreciate Manara TV and Radio for their efforts and call on all Islamic organizations to emulate them.
Before I round-up my presentation I must acknowledge the support and purposeful leadership provided by President Muhammadu Buhari who has undertaken to ensure all Nigerians are served in the best manner possible. May Allah SWT continue to assist and guide him and us all in discharging the responsibilities He (SWT) has placed on our shoulders.
Abdullahi Mukhtar Muhammad, MON,FCIA,ESQ
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
National Hajj Commission Of Nigeria (NAHCON)
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