By Maryam Garba Hassan
As Muslims all over the world awaits Saudi official decision on Hajj 2020, the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) has assured that the health and safety of Nigerian pilgrims will not be compromised.
A statement issued at the weekend by the Commission’s Assistant Director, Information, Publication, Mousa Ubandawaki, said the Commission’s commissioner in charge of Operations, Licensing and Tour operators, Alhaji Abdullahi Magaji Hardawa, gave the assurance while fielding questions from the international media organization of France Radio and the Voice of America (VOA) in his office on Friday.
He said while the commission was still awaiting the official announcement of the Saudi Government on this year’s hajj, the commission would also take into consideration the health and safety of Nigerians in deciding its participation in the annual pilgrimage.stressing.
He said the lives and safety of the pilgrims is more important and paramount than any other consideration.
“However the final decision of Saudi Arabia on Hajj 2020 may be, we on our part will make sure that the wellbeing and safety of our country’s contingent is paramount and secured”, he said.
On the commission’s position on the Hajj, especially against the background of limited time to its commencement, the Commissioner said the Commission is currently consulting with relevant stakeholders in the country to come up with an advisory paper to guide the federal government in taking final decisions, the statement added.
According to the statement, the Commission has just concluded the first phase of its consultation and interface with the National Assembly Committees and leadership.
It said the second phase will start next week with meetings with Licensed Tour Operators and Chief Executives of State Pilgrims Welfare Boards after which it will collate its findings and send the same to the Federal Government as an advisory to guide them in their final decision making.
“I can assure you that whatever decision that will be made will be in the best overall interest of Nigeria and Nigerians. “We are not unmindful of the challenges and time constraints, but we will ensure that whatever advice we give to the government will not be influenced by sentiments”.
Hardawa further explained that before the suspension of the 2020 Hajj arrangements by the Saudi authorities, the commission had made tremendous progress in the pricing and conduct of flight planning arrangement which had resulted in the reduction of cost paid to service providers to the tune of ₦3 Billion.
He said the Covid-19 pandemic might have eroded that initial achievements as transportation and accommodation arrangements hitherto made may have to be adjusted in line with the World Health Organization (WHO) safety protocol which Nigeria is a signatory.
He assured that the commission has prepared well enough for any eventuality if it became imperative that the 2020 Hajj would go ahead.