From: Kehinde Aderemi, Saudi Arabia
Chairman of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), Abdullah Mukhtar Muhammed, has vowed that the commission would sanction all erring tour operators in the country that abandoned their pilgrims in accordance with the act that established the commission.
Mohammed said reports reaching the commission showed that some tour operators, after collecting huge amounts and hard-earned money from their clients, later abandoned them to their fates while in the holy land.
He said this negates the initial arrangements with the pilgrims particularly in terms of providing such pilgrims with descent accommodation.
Mukhtar, however, urged the Saudi authorities to improve on the facilities at Mina in subsequent hajj operations and also called for a global discussion on how best to improve on future hajj exercises. He added that the Saudi authorities ought to know the exact number of pilgrims that would perform hajj each year, much earlier, while a benchmark should be put on the number of those performing the pilgrimage and as well stressed the need to guide against late registration so as to ensure adequate planning.
The NAHCON boss described this year’s hajj as ‘very successful’ compared with previous exercises but, however, called on all stakeholders on hajj operations across the world, particularly in Nigeria, to go back to the drawing board to address identified shortcomings. He commended Nigerian pilgrims for their positive behaviours and comportment before, during and after the hajj, but however directed all states that their drivers violated the Saudi Arabian traffic rules and regulations to pay their fines before leaving the Saudi kingdom.
In his remarks, the commissioner in charge of planning, personnel management and finance at NAHCON, Alhaji YUSUF Adebayo Ibrahim, who was in charge of feeding and tent services at Mina and Arafat, disclosed that early payment of hajj fares by various state pilgrims welfare boards enabled the commission to secure good accommodation in Mecca and Medina. He suggested that a perfect arrangement should be put in place during next year’s hajj whereby Nigerian food would be brought to Saudi Arabia for the pilgrims through the appropriate quarters and not through illegitimate means for them to enjoy the meals they are used to.
Adebayo pledged that the commission would improve on its services next year and appealed to the Saudi government to equally enhance their accommodation facilities in Mina as the space allocated to Nigerian pilgrims this year, was not too spacious.
In her remarks, the chairman Senate Committee on foreign affairs, Sen. Monsurat Sunmonu, praised NAHCON officials and officials of the state pilgrims welfare boards and other stakeholders for ensuring a successful hajj operation but announced that the National Assembly would soon invite the Nigerian ambassador to Saudi Arabia to brief the Senate on how best to improve on future hajj operations and condemned the idea where the accommodation of some state pilgrims are too far away from Haram.
Also speaking at the stakeholders’ meeting, the Consul – General of Nigeria in Jeddah, Amb. Muhammed Sanni Yunusa, announced that no incident of drug peddling was reported about any Nigerian pilgrim during this year’s pilgrimage.