By Ismail Abdulaziz
It is hard in Nigeria to celebrate any positive achievement of government Ministry, Department and Agency in the area of service delivery to Nigerians both at home and abroad due to trust issue.
The trust issue has become very much in demand that negative vibes permeate all aspects of relationships between the citizen and government agencies that provide services directly to them.
During the 2022 Hajj exercise, the pilgrimage was conducted on an emergency basis due to a number of factors that are external to the usual operation of the religious obligations of Muslim faithful. These factors include but not limited to the issue concerning the worldwide outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020 and the global financial meltdown that accompanied it.
One issue that arose during the Hajj 2022 was that of time. The Kindom of Saudi Arabia accepted to conduct the full Hajj after two years of closure of its borders due to the COVID-19. The normal time for the preparation was not there, as such Hajj stakeholders across the world had to rely on their experiences to quickly gather their acts and fulfil the yearning of the numerous Muslim faithful that have waited two years to fulfil this core religious obligation.
The unusual situation required that the culture of tolerance, patience and dedication must come to play to ensure harmonious and successful operation.
Apart from the hiccups in starting the Hajj and the acceptance of the reduction in the number of seats allocated to every country, the commissions and the pilgrims had to face new innovations that Saudi Arabia introduced to make the annual pilgrimage a pleasurable one for visitors to the House of Allah.
In the 2022 Hajj operations, pilgrims faced and accepted the challenges. This was largely due to the religious conviction that challenges faced in the course of pilgrimage attract equal amount of blessings from Allah, because all pilgrims that left their homes and comfort zones to perform the Hajj did so to answer to the call of Allah.
In the course of this new arrangement, many shortcomings were inevitably recorded. The agreement of standard, quantity and quality of the feeding to be given to pilgrims at Mina and Arafat was not attained even though money was fully paid for the services by each Hajj commission, Nigerian inclusive.
Following complaints from pilgrims and their state pilgrims’ boards, the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) took it on itself to address this grievance as it was wont to do according to its establishment Act. It therefore held various meetings with the service providers in Saudi Arabia and at the highest government level to redress this anomaly.
Before the end of the 2022 Hajj exercise, a commitment was made by the service providers in Saudi Arabia to look into the issue with the view to address it and possibly pay compensation.
Early this week, the good news of paying compensation for services not provided was finally attained. The sum of N107, 864, 567 was paid as refund by Saudi Arabia for the poor feeding services rendered by the Company of Mutawwifs for Pilgrims from African Non- Arab Countries.
A statement by an Assistant Director, Information and Publication of Division of NAHCON Mousa Ubandawaki disclosed that the development was sequel to several letters written and consistent reminder by the Commission to the Company on the poor feeding services rendered to Nigerian pilgrims during the Masha’ir period.
“Reference to your letter no: NAHCON/AN43 dated 10/07/2022, regarding the poor quality of service and in order for the company to maintain the national relationship between us, the sum of SR542,033 (Five Hundred and Forty Two Thousand Thirty Three Saudi Riyals) has been deducted from the amount of the Masha’ir feeding contract.”
Reacting to the development, the Chairman/CEO, NAHCON, Alhaji Zikhrullah Kunle Hassan, described it as heart-warming, saying it vindicated the Commission’s tenacious struggle to right the wrongs done to Nigerian pilgrims during the 2022 Hajj by the Muassassah, especially in the feeding arrangement and the quality of services rendered during the period.
“I really want to thank my counterparts from the Mutawwifs for this role in ensuring that they refunded the money paid for services not rendered or poorly delivered.”
The Mutawwifs or Muassassah as it is fondly called, is the Saudi Company responsible for the accommodation, transportation and feeding of Nigerian and other African pilgrims in Muna and Arafat during the 5-day Hajj in Saudi Arabia.
The idea of adding to the number of positives for the image of the country, no matter how little, is important to achieve a critical mass in bringing back the culture of trusting government in its various people-oriented policies and programmes.
This modest positive achievement by the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria is no doubt a welcome development that needed to be stressed for Nigerians to be aware and appreciate, in our match to a better future. With a little drop an ocean could be created.
The quantum of monetary compensation should be of lesser importance to the fact of creating the trust bridge that Nigerians can look up to government to look out for them and give them their rightful dues.
The NAHCON and other agencies of government working towards this objective must also be encouraged to continue to do more in ensuring better service delivery to Nigerians.(NAN)