From Muhammad Ibrahim, Kaduna
Independent Hajj Reporters, a civil society organization, on Wednesday urged the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) to strictly adhere to its policy of not allowing a single airline to airlift more than 40,000 pilgrims in more than six airlifting points.
The group made the call in a statement signed by its National Coordinator, Ibrahim Muhammed and Publicity Secretary, Abubakar Mahmoud.
“Recent media reports indicated that Max Air is set to airlift 52 thousand pilgrims to this year annual Muslims pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia,” the statement said “However, in an advertorial for tender titled: Application for airlift of pilgrims under State Pilgrims’ Welfare Boards/Agencies/ Commissions
for 2014 hajj at National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) and published by some national dailies on 27th of January 2014; item 6 under the conditions of airlifts that: No applicant, irrespective of size and number of aircraft it intends to deploy, will be allowed to apply and/or airlift more than 40,000 pilgrims from a maximum of six (6) Hajj designated airports,” the group said.
“If the reports by these national dailies are exact that a single air carrier has been given 52,000 numbers of pilgrims contrary to NAHCON rules, then we are afraid that NAHCON as a regulatory body statutory empowered by law to screen, select and regulate air carriers on behalf of pilgrims may have unwittingly violated its own provision; which is very unfortunate.
“While we commend NAHCON in its efforts to streamline Hajj airlift in the country, we urge them to always adhere to its set standard in order to create a level playing field for Hajj services providers and avoid unhealthy competition that may affect the smooth conduct of Hajj exercise,” the statement added. The body said, “though we acknowledge that Max Air has advantages in terms of number of aircraft in its fleet; we are constrained to say that should not be misconstrued as a licence to bend the NAHCON guidelines.
“If by tomorrow another air carrier acquires more aircraft than Max Air, does it mean that such air carrier will also be given more pilgrims?”, the group asked rhetorically.
It advised NAHCON to “borrow a leaf from other countries like Pakistan, Iran, Indonesia and India who have more numbers of pilgrims.
In India for instance, Hajj Committee of India includes the numbers of pilgrims that will be allocated to each air carrier as a pre-condition in its tender”.