October 16, 2009
As the countdown to Hajj 2009 begins, the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) commenced its last minute preparedness for this year's Hajj exercise. Throughout the calendar, NAHCON set a formidable committee to enlighten the pilgrims as well as the authorities concern and the stakeholders on the need of eradicating the problems faced by Nigerian pilgrims at the Holy land in order to record a successful and hitch-free Hajj (Hajj-al-Mabrur).
An accepted Hajj is a Hajj performed--overall--in a manner pleasing to Allah (SWT), and its signs are that a person returns with resolve and determination to fulfill their duty to Allah in a pleasing manner. If this is the case, then such a person's Du'as are likely to be answered--not just 40 days after their return, but beyond as well.
It is a known phenomenon that over the years, the attitudes of our Nigerian Pilgrim have constituted major menace to Saudi Authorities during each Hajj Operation. The Nigerian Pilgrims are known to embark on demonstrations at Saudi Airport and the places of accommodation both in Makkah and Madinah, out of impatience to come back home after completing their Hajj. Others are in the habit of overstaying after Hajj or Umrah while some falsify their traveling documents.
The general disorderliness of our pilgrim right from the shores of Nigeria and while in Saudi Arabia is nothing to write home about. For instance, the disorderliness in boarding plane, bus, the rowdy nature of our weighing centres, our eating and hygiene habits in our accommodation places, the rampant cases of pilgrim loss, deliveries of babies, in some cases miscarriages, oversize and multiple luggages at boarding points and carrying about luggages at Jamarat are all problems of serious concern noted by Hajj stakeholders and have become the bane of successful and hitch-free Hajj. These anomalies have so long been associated with Nigerian pilgrims to the extend that today any black man who perpetrates them is automatically regarded as a Nigerian.
The Hajj Stakeholders cannot alone surmount these enumerated problems without the support and cooperation of our intending pilgrims, and the cooperation of intending pilgrims can only be obtained if the pilgrims are adequately enlightened on the basic tenets of attaining an acceptable Hajj.
The salient key to attaining an acceptable Hajj is the fear of Allah and imbibing the spirit of patience and tolerance throughout the period of Hajj performance.
Presenting the update of 2009 Hajj arrangements recently at the floor of the National Assembly, the NAHCON boss, Alhaji Musa Bello highlights that the 85,000 pilgrims' slot allocated to Nigeria have been distributed to the 36 states, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and the Armed forces. He said, the payment of the seats have been commendable with N29,540,054,815.16 received out of N30,638,407,760.29, which was expected. According to him, this represents 96% success of the payment received.
On the E-passport and issuance of the Hajj visas, the commission reaffirmed the circular received earlier this year (January 2009) by the Saudi authorities asserting that from the 2009 Hajj season, pilgrims' passport will no longer be accepted from anyone globally, only international passports will be used. Following that, the commission made adequate arrangements with the Nigerian Immigration Service and the state pilgrims' welfare boards and agencies across the nation to take care of this development. "Consequently, by now, every intending pilgrim for this year has already obtained his e-passport. We have even held meeting with the concerned Saudi Authorities on how the e-passport should be handled to avoid damage," said NAHCON boss.
The issuance of visa for 2009 Hajj, according to the commission, commenced on 7th September, 2009 at the Saudi consulate in Kano where 60,000 pilgrims from the states of the North-West, North-East and parts of North-Central geo-political zones are being processed. The balance of 25,000 pilgrims are being handled by the Saudi embassy in Abuja. The statement further said visa issuance in Abuja commenced a week after Ramadan where approximately, 50,000 visas have so far been processed.
On pilgrims' accommodation, NAHCON is optimistic that Nigerian pilgrims' accommodation has been secured by the states in Mecca, while the commission has secured accommodation in Madina. Alhaji Bello said, "The cost of accommodation in Makkah this year has been benchmarked at SR2,500 per pilgrim, while that of Madina has been benchmarked at SR350 per pilgrim for the eiath days pilgrims generally desire to saty in Madina."
Notably, Hajj is one of the fundamental Jihads (cause of Allah), therefore, when we prepare for hajj we should also prepare for death. No one is guaranteed return from Hajj. We are supposed to put our affairs in order, make our wills, say our goodbyes. We try to mend fences with those estranged from us-relatives, friends, enemies. Understandably, we often put these uncomfortable conversations off until the last possible minute.
Ramadan is a good time to begin the process of forgiving, asking forgiveness and reconciling with others just as we fast and pray and hope for forgiveness from Allah and reconciliation in our relationship to Allah, while Hajj is another window to exercise Allah's piety. May Allah Ta'ala grant us Hajj-al-Mabrur.