From Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
The Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), Alhaji Zikrullah Hassan, has disclosed how NAHCON negotiated away overheads for Nigerian pilgrims.
Briefing journalists in Abuja, Hassan also disclosed how NAHCON relieved pilgrims of financial burdens and insisted on high quality welfare for Nigerian pilgrims.
Hassan recalled the preparations for the emergency Hajj of 2022, which he said, took just about six months preparation since Hajj had been cancelled for two previous years to the utmost distaste of intending pilgrims.
He added that when the 2022 hajj was finally announced by the Saudi Arabian authorities, the number to be allowed had been severely slashed by more than 50 percent.
Hassan further said Nigeria that used to be allowed to present 95,000 pilgrims had its own cut down to 43,000.
“With less than six months to tidy up, there had also appeared some other unusual intervening variables to contend with.
“Following a blanket cessation of all economic activities at the peak of COVID-19, productivity had declined so substantially. Economies of different countries have been struggling. Currencies, therefore, across the world, including those stronger than ours, some of them in the developed world, have been merely floating.
“With our expertise as a business enthusiast and manager and conscious of our aspirations and advocacy on welfare for Nigerian muslim pilgrims dating back to previous roles in this sector, we took on the challenge of negotiating away some overheads for Nigerian pilgrims to relieve them of some financial burdens, even as we insisted on high quality welfare.
“We dispensed with as many middlemen as possible in all transactions ending up. Not again are Nigerian pilgrims quartered in some difficult terrains. This year, we shared, so to say, same level with at least, D8 countries like Turkey, the fastest growing economy in Europe, as well as Bangladesh, currently the world’s largest producer of garments and indeed, one country with the highest radicalized agricultural reforms.
“We are even poised to achieve more as NAHCON staff are now being prepared to take on additional challenge of hajj period passport management hitherto the exclusive preserve of Saudi agencies for some handsome fee,” Hassan said.
Hassan further said NAHCON was poised to advance Nigerians’ interest in Saudi Arabia and will deploy all relevant endowments in that direction, particularly its experiential assets.
“Yet, we are fully prepared to domesticate in the Hajj sector, the President Buhari’s subscription to Open Government Partnership, OGP, deriving from the enactment of the Freedom of Information Act of 2011.
“We are happy to announce to you that on account of the enhanced performance in this year’s hajj by NAHCON, all other African countries consensually deferred to us to lead them in interfacing with the Saudi authorities. It was not for nothing that the concession for compensation that NAHCON secured from Saudi service providers for Nigerian pilgrims before returning home after the Hajj on the poor quality of some services have just been secured by other countries like Indonesia weeks after the end of the Hajj exercise,” Hassan added.
Hassan also said NAHCON has remained resolute on ensuring on good health services to Nigerian pilgrims.
“Members of our medical team are as versatile as those of other top rated countries in addition to supportive facilities and drugs. The accessibility of our clinics for pilgrims from all states made them their first choices once they took ill. It was therefore not surprising that in spite of the rush with which the medical team was put together, the performance was amazing. In Muna alone for instance, NAHCON provided no fewer than 26 emergency medicine supplies kits complemented further with mobile drug store in form of an ambulance. These made it easy to cope with all the 12, 152 consultations.
“We will strive continuously to improve on service delivery to those we have been statutorily mandated to serve. For us, having agreed to serve in this capacity, there is no going back even as we will not be contented with half measures. We are committed to excellence for which we have been known. We are determined to hoist Nigeria’s flag higher amongst others given the diplomatic values of hajj beyond the religious,” Hassan further said.
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