The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) has advised journalists to be more professional in their reportage to avoid straining diplomatic relations in which the people are beneficiaries.
The Head, Public Affairs Division of NAHCON, Mrs Fatima Usara, made the appeal in a statement made available, on Tuesday, in Abuja.
She alleged that some recent publications erroneously alluded that NAHCON boss had blamed the Saudi Government for low turnout of Nigerian pilgrims due to early closure of the Kingdom’s Hajj portal.
Usara said the chairman only blamed Nigerian pilgrims’ attitude of treating Hajj registration with levity and waiting till the last minute to register.
“The Commission would like to clarify that at no time did the chairman, Mukhtar Muhammad who cherishes the relationship between Nigeria and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, come anywhere close to blaming the Kingdom for closure of Hajj registration portal.
“In fact, in so many instances, he justified the closure seeing that an extension for the deadline was obtained thrice.
“Muhammad recalled that during NAHCON’s nationwide sensitisation campaign for this year’s hajj, he had warned intending pilgrims against late registration.
“Some Nigerians’ late Hajj registration attitude has always been a major setback to Hajj planning in the country.
“The Commission had hoped that the new Saudi policy that sets a deadline for closure of Hajj portal will motivate intending pilgrims to finally have a change of attitude.
“Unfortunately, some still behaved true to type to an extent that even after closure of the portal, thousands approached the Commission with cash in hand begging to be allowed to register for the 2018 exercise.
According to her, the Saudi Authority has set a deadline for its portal because of the need to compile a comprehensive data of persons moving into the Holy land as a step to maintaim its internal security and provide reception for them.
The NAHCON boss, however, appreciated the Saudi government and its mission in Nigeria for their support on hajj and Umrah matters.
“Saudi Arabia was gracious enough to accommodate Nigerians’ self induced problem of late registration; and to show that we have ourselves to blame for the fallout.
“Saudi Arabian authorities, thrice, extended closure of Hajj registration portal for Nigeria to allow more people to register.
“Initially, the deadline was set for the Islamic month of Rajab which coincided with March 31, 2018, after the Commission solicited for an extension, the Saudi authorities cooperatively granted that to our intending pilgrims until end of Shawwal.”