By Salisu Sani-Idris
The Independent Hajj Reporters (IHR) has advised the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) to embark on a nationwide campaign to educate prospective pilgrims on timely registration for the 2024 Hajj.
The National Coordinator of the CSO, Malam Ibrahim Muhammed, gave the advice in a statement on Monday in Abuja.
Muhammed also enjoined the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) pilgrims boards to encourage prospective pilgrims to pay their deposits as soon as possible.
According to him, any further delay will endanger the chances of the prospective pilgrims to participate in the 2024 Hajj.
Muhammed expressed concern over the apparent slow pace with which NAHCON and state authorities are moving as regarding preparations for Hajj 2024.
He noted that the Saudi Arabia Ministry of Hajj and Umrah made it clear to all Hajj participating countries before the end of the recently concluded 2023 Hajj, that preparations for Hajj 2024 had begun.
According to him, the ministry also informed most countries of their Hajj quota and the new policies in place for the 2024 Hajj.
“Specifically, the Ministry said all Hajj formalities are to be concluded at least 45 days before Hajj 2024, because the Visa issuance portal would be closed by that date.
“This means that Nigeria has about four months from now to conclude making all necessary arrangements such as collection and deposit of pilgrim’s fares.
“And the signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and engagement with service providers both at home and in Saudi Arabia,” the group said.
He, however, acknowledge the recent advice issued by NAHCON for pilgrims to save N4.5 million as a deposit.
“But we believe that is not enough. Currently, states have less than 120 days to register 2024 intending pilgrims and we are aware of the uncertainties around how much will be the equivalent of dollar components in the Hajj rate template.
“In addition, we expect that all states should have announced the commencement of registration of intending pilgrims.
“While NAHCON on its part moves with lightning speed to negotiate how to get the foreign exchange component benchmark of the forthcoming pilgrimage. Anything short of that is simply risking Nigerians’ participation in Hajj 2024,” IHR warned.
Muhammed also said that it was expected that both NAHCON and the states to have vigorously begun an enlightenment campaign regarding the existing forex policy and how it affected the Hajj fare.
“States pilgrims boards must as a matter of urgency embark on statewide publicity on 2024 registration as every other arrangement is tied to the number of pilgrims that will be registered by the states.
“As far as we are concerned, both NAHCON and the states have no option but to close ranks and work in harmony with regards to the Hajj Saving Scheme.
“Because it is the best avenue available for pilgrims to save gradually and travel for Hajj whenever their savings are enough to enable them to secure a slot.
“The recent short and shortened Hajj calendar made this option imperative,” the statement read in part.
He however commended NAHCON for setting up a committee to search for new service providers in Saudi Arabia.
Muhammed also advised the commission to weigh the possible implications of assigning about 95,000 pilgrims to new service providers who have no previous experience in serving Nigerian pilgrims. (NAN)