By Al-Amin Ciroma
The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) held a 2-day post-mortem conference on the 2010 Hajj in Kaduna, under the chairmanship of His Eminence, the Sultan of Sokoto and National Amirul-Hajj, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, mni, CFR, with a view to examining the hajj operations and identifying suitable strategies for improvement.
Earlier before this conference, the officials of Hajj National Executive Council (NEC) held similar meeting at the National Mosque, Abuja to discuss operational activities, challenges and recommendations of the successful Hajj 2010 exercise.
After the exhaustive deliberations and critical examination of the various issues, the conference agreed and drafted the following communique:
1. Pilgrims’ education: As part of its efforts in fostering peaceful Hajj operations in the country, NAHCON looked at the pilgrims’ education and agreed that there is need for proper education, orientation and sensitization of pilgrims on hajj rites and conducts. Not only that, the communique include establishment of a central ‘Da’awah’ and ‘Irshad’ unit to coordinate and harmonise the activities of ‘Ulamas’ across the country on hajj matters. Against this background, the conference agreed that the period of pilgrims’ training to last for at least three months.
2. As a measure to harmonise pilgrims’ stay in the holy land, the committee agreed that in Makkah, the state pilgrims’ welfare board/agencies to abide with NAHCON guidelines on securing sufficient accommodation to avoid overcrowding. They should also provide transpotation where accommodation is more than two kilometres away from the holy mosque (‘Haram’).
While in Madinah, there is urgent need for permanent accommodation in Madinah for Nigerian pilgrims. And to avoid unnecessary inconvenience to pilgrims,the communique included the need for the state pilgrims’ welfare boards/agencies to conduct proper coordination of movement of pilgrims in Madinah.
3. On feeding, it was resolved that feeding arrangement should be maintained and improved upon, in addition to expanding the committee. Henceforth, agreements with Mu’assasah and caterers should be thoroughly examined and analysed by a competent legal authority before signing and that the preparation for feeding arrangement to commence early.
4. Transportation: The meeting commended the new transportation system and called for improvement where there are inadequacies. In this vain, it was also resolved that dissemination of accurate and timely information be implemented to ensure firm control and orderly movement of pilgrims.
5. Medical service: The committee resolved that pre-hajj medical screening for all intending pilgrims to commence in good time to enable the issuance of a medical information card. In order to solve health problems of the pilgrims, the committee agreed that there is need for in-flight medical personnel for emergency health matters. As against the eventual health problems occurring during the hajj exercise, the committee agreed that medical clinics should be increased and spread around the cluster of pilgrims’ accommodation in Makkah and Madinah.
5. Tour Operators: The committee resolved that seat allocation to Tour Operators should be done in time while the list of licensed operators should be published in the media. It was also agreed that there is need to facilitate issuance of multiple and official entry visas to Tour Operators to enable them move freely in the Kingdom.
NAHCON was also asked to exert its authority by appropriately sanctioning any defaulting Tour Operator. The commission was also advised to be involved whenever agreements between Tour Operators and service providers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are signed.
The conference also strongly observed the prevalence of syndicate groups both in Saudi Arabia and Nigeria engaged in the sale of travel documents, visa racketeering and smuggling of illegal pilgrims. The conference therefore emphasised the need to ensure proper screening of Tour Operators’ pilgrims, just like their counterparts in the State Pilgrims’ Welfare Boards and Agencies. To achieve these set objectives, they were advised to hire separate aircraft for the purpose of airlifting their own pilgrims.
6. Role of Ulama: The conference resolved to organise a meeting of some selected Ulama across the country to deliberate on contentious issues on Hajj for proper interpretations and guidance of Nigerian pilgrims and such meetings to be sponsored by NAHCON.
7. Luggage policy: The conference maintained that the full implementation of the existing NAHCON luggage policy of 40kg check-in and 10kg single hand luggage be retained and enforced by all. However, excess luggage outside the above mentioned should be handled by licensed Cargo Operators by states. The meeting also discussed and resolved that there is need for establishment of uniform approach to luggage management and collection for both regular and international pilgrims, having airlines’ representatives at screening days.
Published March 18, 2011