By Fatima Sanda Usara
Recent events make this short write-up inevitable. These are but few words of counsel which is starting with Hajj operation managers: one recalls that during the course of sensitization visits by National Hajj Commission of Nigeria, NAHCON, one of the core issues the commission’s representatives hammered upon is the need for pilgrims and pilgrims’ officials to be prompt in presenting themselves and their pilgrims for airlift. Reluctance in showing up for the airlift is detrimental to the progress of Hajj operations.
It is expected that prior to any announcements calling on pilgrims to come forth for airlift, State Pilgrims Welfare Boards (SPWBs) do give sufficient time notice for their pilgrims to make final preparations and to bid friends and relations farewell before moving on. Similarly, it is expected that before NAHCON comes out with any flight schedule, ample time is given to state welfare boards to mobilize their pilgrims to Hajj camps for screening, distribution of travel documents and other sundry matters, to avoid delays. Therefore if these ideal situations are keenly adhered to, much disappointments relating to Hajj flight delays would not arise. Truth is, knowing that airlift of pilgrims has commenced; it is assumed that all persons responsible for airlift must have concluded the necessary arrangements and only awaiting execution of the said plans to be realized.
In recent years when almost seamless airlift of pilgrims were actualized, this calculated routines were played out. Therefore, after years of successfully applying this tactics in Hajj airlift, this year’s arrangement must not be any different.
True, new developments such as the biometric registration programme may have been introduced by Saudi Arabia this year thereby forcing a redirection from what used to be the norm. While pleading with those affected to bear with the situation by being proactive, nevertheless, the situation should not be allowed to constitute a hindrance to timely mobilization of pilgrims for onward movement to meet with scheduled flights. Though the country is still grappling to adjust to this biometric reform, it should not stop boards and agencies from envisaging problems from likely scenarios, thereby proffering solutions before hand. Doing this will curtail delays from unforeseen circumstances arising from the new initiative.
To The Pilgrims
Undeniably, no matter the state of preparedness by NAHCON, SPWBs, airlines and other licensed Hajj agencies; the ultimate actualization of timely airlift rests with the pilgrims. If an airline stations its aircraft promptly enough, yet the targeted number of pilgrims to be transported is not met, a delay is created. This delay in turn creates manifold problems. For example, in a recent flight that transported Nasarawa state pilgrims to King Abdulaziz International Airport Jeddah, a total of 545 passengers were expected onboard. Unfortunately, the flight left the country with only 382 pilgrims plus 10 officials en route, despite delaying the trip for over 12 hours; per chance more pilgrims will turn up. This means 153 persons less. Translating this shortage in terms of monetary as well as logistics losses to the airline operators and Hajj planners, the figure is not one to be waived away carelessly. In effect, it is such that another flight may have to be scheduled to convey those on ground subsequently. If this unfolding scenario persists, it points to the possibility of last minute chaos by pilgrims out of panic of being left behind: a needless situation to find ones’ self in the first place. Besides, the essence of chartering aircrafts with a larger passenger capacity is to hasten transportation of pilgrims within a shorter period. Of what essence thus is it if big airplanes will fly with multiple empty seats?
Ordinarily, tasting a journey as significant as Hajj is not something that happens everyday. It only behooves that pilgrims should be eager to proceed for a journey they have paid for and are anticipating for quite sometime. Therefore, why the hesitation? Besides, embarking on the journey early gives one a genuine chance to return to the country earlier in turn. Accordingly, to drag ones feet at a time one is supposed to proceed to Saudi Arabia means one will remain in that land for a longer period after completion of Hajj rites.
The benefits that accrue to sticking to plans are enormous. As a result, one is using this medium to appeal to those concerned to do the right things at the right time so that we all will have reason to celebrate our collective success at the end of the exercise.
Usara writes in from NAHCON’s Public Affairs Unit, Abuja.