Centralize Hajj Operating System in Nigeria,CSO urges.

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By correspondent.

Given the noticeable gaps in both policy and its implementation in terms of service delivery, Independent Hajj Reporters, (IHR) a civil society organization that monitors and reports hajj in Nigeria has called on the National Assembly to amend the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) Act to ensure a cohesive and effective hajj operating system in the country.

IHR in a statement on Monday, signed by its national coordinator, Ibrahim Muhammad in Makkah, Saudi Arabia said the call also became necessary because of the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Hajj’s adjustment of hajj policy and calendar of events – which is a detailed approved guideline for all hajj participating countries.

“Nigeria is the fifth largest hajj country and the first in Africa with an allocation of 95,000 slots.

“Nigeria is the only country out of the Top 10 Hajj participating countries which includes Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iran, Turkey, Afghanistan, Morocco and Malaysia that does not operate a centralized system.

“We operate a three-tier system in Nigeria (Federal, State and Local Governments). All the countries mentioned above have a unified and central control hajj administration with a coordinating unit at zones, so they found it easy to run 5 to 6-year hajj rolling plans.

“Local Government Pilgrims officers do Pilgrims Registration under the control of state Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Boards. Thereafter the State Pilgrims boards deposited such funds in their respective accounts before it will be moved to the NAHCON operational account on request – all within one hajj calendar year.

“Management of hajj operations is strictly time-limited to start thinking of continuing with these time-consuming bureaucracies.

“We support an advocacy for improved services to our dear pilgrims but the recent calls for the decentralisation of NAHCON and devolving powers to the states would be a very wrong move,” IHR said.

The CSO also said “For example, the new calendar of activities released by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah recently scheduled 4th September for the kickoff of arrangements for the 2025 hajj.

“By virtue of diplomatic protocol, the Saudi Ministry of Hajj only relates with National Hajj missions not regional bodies. Decentralization as being touted will allow 36 states’ pilgrim’s welfare boards and agencies to send 36 different delegations to Saudi Arabia (the first in the History of Hajj operation) to liaise with Saudi Arabia (host country) on Hajj plans. 36 states will also sign different hajj memorandum of understanding with one country.

“On service delivery, NAHCON controls Airlines and accommodation in Madina. In the last few years, Nigerian pilgrims have been housed in a 4-star hotel within the vicinity or 5 minutes’ walk close to the Prophet’s Mosque.

“On the other hand, States are responsible for choosing their accommodation in Makkah. This year for example, our team currently in Saudi Arabia observes that Niger state pilgrim’s accommodation is located in an isolated area, far away from the holy Mosque, this invariably denies quite a number of the pilgrims the opportunity to observe their obligatory prayers at the Haram.

“Also, registration of pilgrims starts from the local governments after which the funds are transferred to state pilgrims’ boards before being transferred to NAHCON.

“There are allegations that most of the delays experienced every single year, that affects the smooth operations of the Hajj, including this year is as a result of the failure of some state boards to remit their collected fares to NAHCON in time because governors have used the monies for other purposes and are being awaited to make refunds.

“We, therefore, call on the National Assembly to make it possible for pilgrims to pay their deposits directly to NAHCON (where the funds will end up anyway) so that the commission can in turn meet its obligations in time and avoid a situation where the entire operation will be put in jeopardy.

“This, we believe, is also the best way to truly hold the commission to account in case of any service failure,” IHR added.
Edited by Dawud Ahmed.

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