Hajj is one of the essential five pillars of Islam prescribed for those who can afford it. Performance of Hajj is flexible because more emphasis has been laid on affordability, but it has more emphasis on those who are wealthy in the society. No doubt, every Muslim is conscious and mindful about the significance of Hajj. Hajj was made obligatory in the 9th year of Hijrah. The Holy Prophet of Islam, Abul-Qasim, Muhammad (may Allah Ta’ala be pleased with him and his purest progeny) sent off 300 Muslims to Mecca so that they could perform Hajj. That was the year when it was banned for the ‘Mushrikeen’ (those who associate partners with Allah Ta’ala) to enter Ka’aba. It was also made unlawful to perform Tawaaf (circling of Ka’aba) with naked body.
By Al-Amin Ciroma (Published in LEADERSHIP Newspapers, June 12, 2009)
The idea of this piece is to examine the operational process of Hajj in Nigeria . Every year, pilgrims in this country counter more and more problems, right from registration to landing at the holy land, Mecca . One of the foremost problems in Hajj operations here is that things are always taken for granted and both the Government and the governed have equal share of blame in this regard because, they are all culprits in the decaying social value system the country has had to experience over the years. Hence, the exercise in Nigeria has been bedeviled with numerous problems which were countered with measures by successive governments and stakeholders. The biggest question now is that. How do we tackle these problems or at least reduced to the barest minimum? This column intends to highlight problems and prospects of Hajj operations.
Recently, the Supreme Council for Shariah in Nigeria (SCSN) and the National Hajj Commission (NAHCON) in a bid to have a hitch-free hajj has jointly organised a One-Day seminar in Kaduna , with a view towards countering the problems of Hajj exercise in Nigeria . The theme of seminar was “The Imperatives and Challenges of Hajj Operation in Nigeria – The way Forward”. The event was blessed by attendance of prominent people and stakeholders. The chairman, house committee on foreign affairs, Honourable Umar Bature, represented the honourable speaker of the House of Representatives. All chairmen and executive secretaries of state pilgrims boards and their directors of operations were all in attendance. The organisers (NAHCON and SCSN) feel that it is imperative on them to organise the event in order to sensitise rather than criticise the Hajj operators.
The event was commissioned with the opening remarks by the president, SCSN, Sheikh Abdul Rashid Hadiyyatullah, who emphasised the need for such an event. He said, the target objectives of the programme were to mobilise and sensitise officials of hajj operation in the country and also eradicate the usual culture of inappropriate preparation of Hajj affairs in the country. Sheikh Hadiyyatulah called on all the movers and shakers of Hajj affairs in Nigeria to as a matter of urgency find lasting solutions for Hajj problems in order to have a hitch-free Hajj.
In his comments, the NAHCON chairman, Alhaji M.M. Bello highlighted the overview of Hajj problems of Nigeria and how his organisation embarks on modalities towards addressing them. All the same, the NAHCON chairman stressed most of his limitations and problems being faced by NAHCON during the exercise. He prayed that with events like these, Hajj tribulations will be reduced drastically. Also speaking, the Executive Secretary of Hajj pilgrims’ board of Kaduna state, Alhaji Abdullahi Mohammed Mukhtar congratulated the organisers and upholds that the seminar came at a right time. According to him, the most unending Hajj problem is illiteracy. He said, the only way to overcome such calamities is to engage the operators and officials of Hajj affairs to series of courses. Alhaji Mukhtar said Kaduna state government has set a pace. Adding that currently, about 25 officials of the board are undergoing special course organised by IATA in order to sensitise them on how to go about international affairs of Hajj. The Kaduna pilgrims’ boss highlighted that IATA provides series of course which includes fields of Airlines, Airports, Civil Aviation, Air Navigation Services, Cargo, Safety and Security, as well as Management and Training Skills for every level, from novice (front-line manager) to senior manager.
A lot stakeholders discussed modalities and the way forward of hajj operations in Nigeria . At the end of the seminar. The following are the communiqué:
• The Act that enacted the NAHCON should be fully implemented without undue interference by political or group interest, to ensure efficient Hajj service delivery.
• Government at all levels should ensure that competent and experience managers are appointed into the various pilgrims’ agencies, devoid of political or group interest.
• Should ensure that miscreants and socially suspected people are not allowed to perform Hajj under whatever disguise. The seminar therefore, calls on the government to consider the issue of government sponsored pilgrims, if it most sponsor, a yardstick should be ensured that only competent people are sponsored. The seminar also noted with regret that, hajj has been turned into political hetronage for compensation by some states and local governments. It is unfortunate that this government sponsored pilgrims are usually those causing problems in the Holy land .
• The seminar noted with concern the low level of pilgrims’ education vis-à-vis enlightenment about the basics the Hajj-rites and requirements that ensures the blessed Hajj (‘Hajj-Mabrur’). It therefore calls on Hajj commission to involve a comprehensive, universal and conscience educational and orientation programme for implementation by states pilgrims’ welfare board.
• States’ pilgrims’ welfare board/agencies should ensure that pregnant women and people of weak health who may not be able to stand the rigours of Hajj should not be preceded on the journey.
• The NACHON should ensure that only certified and credible airlines are engaged in the operation of pilgrims’ airlift.
• The seminar noted that the cost of aviation fuel has come down reasonably and in view of the fact that fuel components constitutes a significant portion of flights’ operations, hence the need for Hajj air-fare be reflected in the final.
• The NACHON and states pilgrims’ board/agencies should make sure that all pilgrims returned with their 40kg (as main) and 10kg (as hand luggage) provided pilgrims have complied with the luggage policy of more than the allowed and approved kilogram. However, certain weight of ‘Zam-zam’ water should be allowed per pilgrim from the holy land.
• The seminar did call for a close consultation between the NACHON and Nigeria Immigration Service in conjunction with the states’ administration, in order to ensure the issue of e-passport does not constitute a bottle-neck for this year’s hajj operations.
Something just reminds me of an adage that says a typical Nigerian has the versatility and resourcefulness of defining problems and goals, but has zero intellect and mental power for implementation. I think a time as come for all of us to think over this, just may be our minds would be touched by a divine sense of reasoning for the good of our people. May Allah (SWT) help us in realising our stated goals. Amen.