The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) has asked all the 36 states, FCT and other Muslim pilgrims welfare boards/agencies to begin online registration of intending pilgrims for Hajj 2019.
The decision is part of several decisions taken by the commission at a joint meeting with officials from the states.
The meeting, which held Thursday in Abuja, also reviewed Nigeria’s performance during Hajj 2017.
A statement by NAHCON spokesperson, Fatima Usara, said the decision to commence early registration was adopted after it was discovered that late registration of pilgrims was a major setback in the success of Hajj operations.
“The meeting agreed to tentatively peg the Hajj fare at N1.5 million pending final calculations,” Mrs Usara said.
She also said the meeting agreed that if the fare is deposited by installments, all payment should be concluded by February 2019.
NAHCON said intending pilgrims are to note that Hajj registration is to be done online at the cost of N500 only.
She said the charges are already included in the total Hajj fare.
“No extra amount is to be charged for purchase of Hajj forms because Hajj form is obsolete,” she said.
The NAHCON spokesperson said the meeting also resolved that as part of measures to safeguard timely planning, state welfare boards are to henceforth propose a tentative date for airlift of their pilgrims and submit such resolutions to the commission within 30 days from the date of the meeting.
“State chief executives who spoke on accommodation challenges commended the Madinah pilgrims’ accommodation and appealed to NAHCON to sustain the feat.
“It was therefore accepted that standard of accommodation in Madinah shall not be lowered,” she said.
She also said as for Makkah accommodation, which is the responsibility of states, a committee comprising two representatives from each geopolitical zone was set-up to review the possibility of securing large buildings as ‘unified’ accommodation for Nigerian pilgrims.
On the issue of catering services, the meeting suggested that each state should negotiate feeding of its pilgrims directly with the caterers and bypass any intermediary in the name of agents.
“They were also counseled to look at the possibility of exporting/supplying the caterers with Nigerian variety of foodstuff to be used in preparing Nigerian pilgrims’ meals. Doing this will form part of revenue generation avenue for the states,” she said.
However, such export, she said, must be done strictly under Saudi Arabian guidelines and permit.
In respect of discussions on income generation to the state boards and agencies, the meeting observed challenges faced by state pilgrims’ boards and agencies in getting financial support from state governors, therefore the need to look outwards for supplementary income so that they can operate irrespective of government funding.
“In view of this, state welfare boards that are classified under category ‘A’ will gain permit to commence organising Umrah services,” she said.
Missing Luggages, Absconding
Mrs Usara said there was no report of missing pilgrims’ luggage or Zamzam water recorded for Hajj 2018.
She however said the meeting resolved that all state boards cooperate with NAHCON and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in ending cases of pilgrims absconding during Hajj and Umrah.
She said the rate of absconding by Nigerian pilgrims “has been on the decline in recent years”. She said NAHCON will ensure that all Umrah and Hajj applicants return within the stipulated time in their visas.
She said present at the meeting were most state executives or their representatives and it was agreed that preparations for 2019 Hajj begin in earnest.
NAHCON Chairman, Abdullahi Muhammad told the gathering that consistent planning and constant reviews are mechanisms needed for successful Hajj outing.
“Consequently, failure in training and retraining of staff, research, consultations, persistent monitoring and evaluation, strict compliance and evaluation are recipes for total Hajj operational failure which all stakeholders must work against.
“Therefore all stakeholders were urged to start planning as if Arafat would be taking place soonest,” Mrs Usara said.