The Chairman, National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) has been in the news recently warning intending pilgrims on the deadline for the payment of Hajj 2018 exercise; that the Commission, in line with the ‘new Hajj Calendar of Events, has consecrated May 2018 as the date in which all ‘payments and arrangements must be concluded’ for the Hajj operations.
On Tuesday, November 28, 2017 the leadership of Association of Hajj and Umrah Operators in Nigeria (AHUON) along with some members of its Board of Trustees (BOT) were at NAHCON to introduce the newly elected executive officers, and to discuss, among other things, the new deadline for payment of Hajj 2018.
AHUON should be concerned because its members, the private hajj operators, serve a set of pilgrims that is distinct from those of state pilgrim boards and agencies – namely busy executives and people of means who are wont to make arrangements of their Hajj trip at the eleventh hour.
During the meeting, present in which was the Chairman of NAHCON, Barrister Abdullah Mukhtar, the new executive officers of AHUON led by the Ag. National President, Alhaji Salihu Abdullahi Butu sought for collaboration between NAHCON and AHUON in the area of pilgrim enlightenment and sensitisation programmes on the deadline for Hajj 2018 operations.
The programmes, Mr. Butu further explained, could involve a joint press conference as well as production and airing of jingles on both radio and television networks, otherwise many pilgrims that travel through private hajj operators may not be able to perform Hajj 2018.
Responding to the presentation of the new executive officers of, and the proposition by AHUON, the Chairman of NAHCON, Bar Abdullah M. Muhammad assured Mr. Butu-led delegation that ‘NAHCON is your office at any moment, and having listened to the Acting President, I wish to advise the new executive officers that leadership is sacrifice.’
He stressed that the sacrifice in leadership denotes a selfless service to the cause undertaken; ‘you cannot lead and benefit at the same time’. Barrister Abdullahi enjoined the new officials to endeavour in recording much success in their tenure as did their predecessors in superintending over the affairs of private hajj operations in Nigeria. ‘In us’, he said, ‘you will find all the support that you need.’
‘Hajj’ the NAHCON Chairman insisted, ‘is a professional industry that must be handled by professionals with the requisite experience in overseeing the operations. Thus the need for regulations in the industry. We at the Commission shall assist you in raising your capacity and competence to such a level that you can compete with your colleagues around the world.’
On the proposed collaboration to sensitise intending pilgrims concerning the deadline for hajj 2018 payments, Barrister Abdullahi said ‘NAHCON has started the sensitisation through its Hajj programme, As You Answer The Call, sponsored and broadcast every Monday by 10pm, on NTA Network urging all those who desire to perform hajj to make complete payment before May 2018. However, we shall further assist you in whatever you intend to do in that regard.
‘Whoever wants to go to Hajj’ said NAHCON Chairman, ‘must plan. People only plan when going on vocation to other destinations around the world. Everything is planed well ahead of time – the ticketing, reservations and hotel accommodation.
Any alterations or changes in dates and itinerary are rescheduled on time. But if the same people are going on Hajj they do not make any plan. Whenever they decide that is the time without any prior arrangements or planning for the journey.
‘That attitude must be changed because the Calendar of Events will be followed strictly especially as it relates to dates and deadline for Hajj payments.’
He also spoke about giving value for money to the pilgrims. ‘You must give us the exact location and designation of places of your accommodation so we can inspect and approve same accordingly.
All advertised services must be provided for as paid by the pilgrims. If any pilgrim was shortchanged in any service agreed upon, they must be refunded fully. You cannot promise something and give your pilgrims less than the due. Some tour operators want to take us decades back in Hajj operations, like those who accommodated their pilgrims in secondary schools in Makkah, and whatnot, during Hajj 2017. The video clips will be shown to you so you can make your own judgement. Therefore, we say no to sub-standard services in the form of what is called half-package and other euphemisms employed by some of you to shortchange pilgrims.
‘Those of you who offer standard services to your pilgrims, we will celebrate and encourage them. Certainly, we shall announce to the world who they are and honour them!’
Speaking on Umrah season, Barrister Mukhtar says AHUON must ensure that people who go on the lesser Hajj are not Mutakhallifeen, visa overstayers in Saudi Arabia. ‘We have the largest population of beggars in both Makkah and Madeenah’, he said, ‘taken into the Kingdom by tour operators.
This is another form of corruption. It is wrong to assume that corruption pertains only holders of public offices. No! People who defraud Hajj and Umrah pilgrims are guilty of corruption. People who strike deals with those who falsely claim to be physically challenged in order to be beggars in the Holy Territories are also guilty of corruption.’