Hajj 2023: NAHCON getting set to host Allah’s guests in Holyland
By May 21, the inaugural flight of Hajj 2023 from Nigeria will commence with the first batch of intending pilgrims answering the call of God to perform the fifth and last religious rituals of Islam.
The pilgrims are referred to as guests of Allah for obeying the religious injunction and leaving the comfort of their homes, families and businesses to achieve that one aim to please Allah alone.
Jabir reported the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, as saying that, “The pilgrims of Hajj and Umrah are the guests of Allah. He called them and they answered Him. They ask from Him and He gives them.”
Some of the major challenges faced by pilgrims before travelling and while at the two Holy cities of Makkah and Madinah are that of accommodation, transportation and feeding.
These recur because of a number of combining factors involving the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), states and FCT Muslims Pilgrims Welfare Boards, as well as licensed tour operators. These bodies are solely responsible for pilgrims welfare, and are expected to address the problems, given the fact that the pilgrims had fully paid for these services.
A number of measures have been taken after the lifting of the two years ban on the pilgrimage due to the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic across the globe. First, the number of pilgrims in 2022 was slashed from the normal two million and two and a half million yearly. It is assumed also that the number of facilities for the pilgrims were actually enough due to the approved numbers.
This year, however, the number of pilgrims expected to perform the Hajj has been brought to a record level where some officials were quoted as giving a figure of 2.5 million while others said no limit was set.
Reports have it that most places used for accommodation by Nigerian pilgrims in previous pilgrimages including the 2022 Hajj, had been demolished for renovation and therefore new ones have to be arranged.
Similarly, the case of transportation challenge is two pronged. The airlift of pilgrims from and to the Holy land do witness various infractions because of the lack of ability of states pilgrims boards to meet their allotted times for take-off. The pilgrims ultimately suffer these lapses.
Feeding also becomes a challenge for pilgrims because those charged with the responsibilities of taking care of it, encounter one problem or the other towards satisfying them.
It is gladdening to note that these are major issues being handled in the various stakeholders meetings between NAHCON, state and FCT pilgrim’s welfare boards and tour operators which started since the end of the 2022 Hajj. The meetings were held in the country and in Saudi Arabia, where the agencies undertook physical inspections of facilities for Nigerian pilgrims.
It is also gratifying that at the April 7 meeting in Abuja to announce the fares and airlines approved for the 2023 Hajj, representatives of stakeholders corroborated the NAHCON decision on a number of issues.
The Executive Chairman, Yobe Pilgrims Welfare Board, Mai Aliyu Usman, said all states were part of the decision taken by NAHCON on the 2023 hajj fares and choice of airlines.
He said that members of the various boards went to Saudi Arabia with the NAHCON officials twice, adding that all decisions and agreements were done together in the interest of the intending pilgrims.
The various fares for performing this year’s Hajj has also been announced and those blessed to perform it expects the best from stakeholders that majorly involves NAHCON and other parties at the states and FCT, as well as tour operators.
NAHCON announced eight different 2023 hajj fares regime for the Northern States and other parts of the country.
“The 2023 Hajj fare incidentally has eight different costs. Pilgrims in Maiduguri and Yola departure centers in the North East will pay the sum of N2,890,000 and this includes their 800 dollars Basic Travel Allowance (BTA).
”For the other Northern States, we have agreed that the cost is N2,919,000, we now move to South which has six different price regime, Edo State is N2,968,000 and the entire South-South and South East are in this same price regime.
”Ekiti and Ondo States N2,880,000, Osun state is N2,993,000 and Cross River State incidentally has the cheapest which is N2,943,000, while that of Lagos, Ogun and Oyo states is N2,999,000.”
The Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of NAHCON, Alhaji Zikrullah Hassan, explained that the inflation rate both in Nigeria and Saudi Arabia as well as the scarcity of aviation fuel were largely responsible for the increase when compared with that of 2022 which was N2.5 million.
”However, NAHCON and the state pilgrims boards and agencies made several efforts in order to keep the fare at the barest minimum level, while also considering the economic feasibilities and reality of the situation.’’
He revealed that NAHCON and all the 36 states and the FCT pilgrims’ boards have reviewed the 2022 hajj operation and adopted strategies for a hitch-free 2023 operation.
”We have agreed with all having reviewed the 2022 operation to do everything that will make us to get every pilgrim that registered to Saudi Arabia in good time.
”We have also agreed that there will be zero tolerance for flight delay or cancelation this year and if there is such there will be sanction on the state or pilgrim or airline that is responsible for it.
”We have also agreed that May 21, 2023, will be the day for the inaugural flight for the 2023 Hajj”, he said.
With less than 43 days to the commencement of the inaugural flight, the meetings and agreements reached by NAHCON and other stakeholders in the country and Saudi Arabia, intending pilgrims and their families look forward to a commensurate treatment of the guest of Allah at the Holyland during and after the performance of the religious ritual at the 2023 Hajj.