By Maryam Garba Hassan
Chairman of the National Hajj Commisison of Nigeria NAHCON, Zikrullah Kunle Hassan, has called for the cooperation of muslim religious leaders in the country towards achieving a successful Hajj operations.
The chairman of the Commission made the call yesterday in Abuja at a meeting with the ulamas.
Hassan said the ulamas are invited for interaction with the leadership of the commission, to intimate them with the vision and activities of the new leadership and to seek for their advice as veterans on Hajj matters as well as to request for their continuous support with prayers in the task to serve the guests of Allah.
The meeting with the religious leaders was the first since the inauguration of the 4th Board over a year ago.
He thanked the ulamas for the positive roles they have been playing in advisory capacity, educating and mobilizing the pilgrims before and during Hajj activities.
Hassan who commended the religious leaders for their valuable contributions said with partnership of this nature they can do more to improve the well-being of pilgrims in particular and Nigerian Muslims in general.
He disclosed that within the 1 year of his administration which commenced on the13th February, 2020, the board has been working tirelessly to improve the management of Hajj and made a solemn pledge to make Hajj fare affordable to enable more Nigerians, especially the indigent citizens to fulfill their dreams of performing Hajj.
“To achieve this objective, the Hajj Savings Scheme (HSS) was launched in Kano on 4th October, 2020.
The Scheme was designed for all Nigerian pilgrims irrespective of their financial status to save gradually for the fulfillment of the 5th Pillar of Islam and at the same time provide opportunity for financial inclusion through investment”, he said .
“It is a critical part of our master plan to not only make Hajj affordable, but to make a better coordination in the airlift and accommodation of pilgrims among other services”.
He said the launch of the Hajj Savings Scheme has been done in five of the six geo-political zones in the country with only the North-East remaining, which will come up in Bauchi, on 25th March, 2021. He said sensitizations on the Scheme have been conducted in 27 states. He said already thousands of Nigerians have so far subscribed to the scheme adding that the Commision is soliciting for the support of the Muslim schoolars for sensitization and mobilization of potential subscribers to the Scheme.
He said priority is being given to establishing the Hajj Training Institute (HTI) with the aim to professionalize Hajj management and to deepen the knowledge and intellectual capacity of the Ummah about Hajj beyond the scope of the rituals and Hajj economy.
“ We have made tremendous progress in this direction, particularly in the areas of curriculum development and accreditation. The Institute will take-off God willing before the end of the year 2021”, he said.
According to him, the Commission has embarked on Digital Transformation of its activities to reduce the cost of doing business and to boost it’s competence in the increasing digitalization of Hajj process being rolled out annually by Saudi authorities.
He said in this regard, the automation of the commission’s finance department has reached advance stage.
He said the Commission is making concerted effort to enter into a Public Private Partnership (PPP) to make some of its Hajj camps and landed assets economically functional all-year round to improve it’s Internally Generated Revenue (IGR).
He said in the Commision’s determination to reenergize the Zonal Offices, an additional Zonal Office was created in Sokoto bringing the total number to six namely; Maiduguri, Kano, Ilorin, Lagos, Port Harcourt and Sokoto while another outreach was established in Bauchi, in addition to the existing outreaches in Kaduna, Abuja and Yola to boost the commission’s operations and service delivery to the pilgrims.
He commended the ulamas for the vital roles they have been playing in keeping the Muslim ummah informed about the Covid-19 pandemic adding that here is need to sustain the enlightment.
“ I, therefore, humbly appeal to you as a body of Ulama to continue to be in the forefront of the spiritual fight against this pandemic for a divine intervention. This work will become increasingly important as we confront disinformation and unsubstantiated rumor about the efficacy and safety of the COVID-19 Vaccine”.
“It is imperative for our brothers and sisters to adhere strictly to the Federal Government protocols to curve the spread of the pandemic.
He further apealled to the ulama for a continued engagement that will deepen the existing cordial relationship and collaboration between the commission and them to provide efficient and effective services to the pilgrims as stated in the vision of the Commission.
During interactive session with the chairman of NaHCON, Sheikh Isa Abdullahi Bala Lau, national leader of Izala sect, also called for a cordial relationship between the leadership of the Commision and the ulamas whom he describes as back bone to the success of Hajj operations.
He pledged to support the new leadership of the commission and assured it of their continued support towards the success of Hajj operations in the country.
Some of the scholars who spoke at the event advised the chairman on the need to seriously angage the State pilgrims welfare boards and Tour Operators in the sensitization and enlightment of intending pilgrims before embarking on the spiritual journey and advised against the call for government to hand over Hajj affairs to individuals like Indonesia and Malaysia does, saying Nigeria is not ripe for that.
Ustaz Abdulfatah Adeyemi said the job of the ulamas has now gone beyond spiritual but diplomatic, safety and security one and therefore, called on his colleagues to have the knowledge of Covid -19 protocols to enble them pass the knowledge to pilgrims in Nigeria and in the holy lands.
He advised the commission to include in its etinary that the ulamas must know about the protocols to be able to talk to and convince pilgrims on the need to abide by it strictly.