The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria, NAHCON, said it has commenced preparations for Hajj 2018 pilgrimage.
This was revealed Thursday by the chairman of the commission, Abdullahi Mohammed, while addressing members of the National Media Team and spokespersons of state pilgrim welfare agencies at a dinner at NAHCON’s office in Makkah, Saudi Arabia.
“We already have a team in Madina to start negotiations and kick-start planning our operation for Hajj 2018,” he said.
He also said the team may discuss downward review of payments for services, considering the early engagements.
The NAHCON boss also said the commission will work with states to get “befitting houses that are close to the Haram for our pilgrims.”
Nigerian pilgrims are currently housed in various hotels acquired by state Muslim Pilgrim Welfare Boards and agencies across Makkah.
Mr. Mohammed said NAHCON is thinking of centralising the accommodation just like what obtains in Madinah where Nigerian pilgrims are accommodated in Markaziyya area very close to the prophet’s Mosque.
“It is our hope that we can accommodate many states in one building against the 2018 hajj,” he said.
Mr. Mohammed also said efforts will be made in 2018 to bridge what he called the existing gap between members of the National Media Team and those from the states.
“We will network media services such that all information coming from the states will be shared by those in the national media team and vice versa in order to avoid duplication of stories.”
The NAHCON boss gave example of a report saying a Nigerian pilgrim had been sentenced to three months in prison for picking a purse at the Haram and refusing to handover to the owner.
He said the reporter who filed the story just spoke with a local government chairman who gave him wrong information and he went to press.
“The truth is the pilgrim in question has not been sentenced, the authorities here are investigating the issue and our lawyers are closely following the matter,” he said.
In his response, the chairman of the national media team, Ubale Musa, thanked NAHCON for giving journalists the chance to perform Hajj and serve Nigeria and Nigerian pilgrims.
“We are happy with what we have seen and as far as we are concerned NAHCON has done very well,” he said.
Mr. Musa however, called on NAHCON to ensure that synergy exists between it and state welfare boards and agencies in terms of information management.
He also told the NAHCON boss not to shy away from calling on any member of the media team for any assignment in future as the need arises.
OVER 14,000 AIRLIFTED BACK HOME
Meanwhile, Mr. Mohammed said over 14,000 pilgrims have been airlifted back to Nigeria in 36 flights as at Thursday evening.
“It is out hope that the pace will increase so that we can complete the airlift even before the deadline we set for ourselves or the deadline set by the Saudi Arabian authorities,” he said.
He urged members of the media team, most of whom will return to Nigeria early on Friday to “always monitor the progress made but verify facts and figures from the commission before going to press.”
“We will continue to engage stakeholders as the return flight continues,” he said.