From Muhammad Ibrahim, Kaduna
As States across the country prepared for the 2014 Hajj exercise, Kaduna State Pilgrims Welfare Board last on March 18, flagged off the registration exercise for the sale of hajj seats to its prospective intending pilgrims across the 23 local government areas of the state.
Ceremony for the flag-off was declared opened by the Emir of Zazzau, Alhaji Shehu Idris’ at his palace in Zaria city in the presence of management staff of the board and that of the Bureau for Religious Affairs ( Islamic Matters) and other Muslim faithful.
The board explained that the flag- off was done at the emir’s palace as tradition demands because the emir is considered a father to all the people of the state.
It is expected that since 5, 629 pilgrims performed Hajj in the state in 2013; same number of Muslims may also undertake hajj this year because the 20 percent global reduction of hajj seats by Saudi Authority still stands.
This is why many people have reasoned that the sale of seats like last year would be very competitive. But many resident Muslims believe only those who Allah has called would go to Hajj this year.
Even though, the number of intending pilgrims outnumber the seats available for the state it was agreed that the procedure would follow a first- come, first- serve basis and that the method should be adhered strictly as that was the strategy used during last year’s registration exercise.
The issue of getting an influential person in the society to assist in getting a hajj seat does not arise as only those who went first got the seats. The board leadership had earlier assured the people that like last year, first timers would be more favored during the registration exercise, a promise it kept.
It was observed by Peoples Daily Correspondent in Kaduna that the transparency during the registration process recorded success in all the wards across the 23 local government areas of the state.
Many attributed the feat to foresight of the board. Alhaji Muhammad Kabiru Kasimu, the board’s chairman who at the emir’s palace on the day of the flag- off promised to be transparent in the exercise, called on pilgrim officers to fear Allah and do what is right.
Alhaji Kasimu assured the emir that with his support and backing the registration exercise would be the best ever in the state because they had a solid plan on ground that would make the exercise successful.
It was gathered that at each of the venue where hajj seats were sold, intending pilgrims were properly screened and certified by the people in-charge to be fit to undertake the exercise. In areas or wards where intending pilgrims outnumbered the seats allocated, officials used a raffle draw to determine those that would go to the Holly land.
This has no doubt, helped in bringing sanity in the sales of Hajj seats to the public as tout activities were seriously curtailed if not completely eliminated in the process. In previous years there were complaints on how touts hijacked seats by defrauding intending pilgrims of their hard saved money but this time around such people were not given the chance to participate in the process.
For instance in Kaduna South local government, sales of hajj seats had never been peaceful until this time around. The raffle draw strategy was applauded by all intending pilgrims because with such a method nobody was perturbed or reported fraudulent involvement of touts.
Similarly, in the past there were complaints against the State Pilgrims officers which is why on assuming office, according to Alhaji Kasimu, the board organized a workshop for pilgrim officers in collaboration with the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) to sensitise them on the process of sale of hajj seats and other matters of the pilgrimage.
The workshop had the theme ‘’Transparency, Accountability and Integrity: Offences and Punishment and Sincerity in Islam’’ held at Arewa House in the state. Kasimu at the workshop charged the POs to be transparent in their work.
He also set up a six man enlightenment committee responsible for coordinating practical demonstration of Hajj rituals to intending pilgrims. The committee, according to reports, will go round the 23 local governments of Kaduna state to sensitize intending pilgrims on the dos and don’ts of Hajj.
He urged the committee to ensure all critical hajj issues were addressed and explained to the intending pilgrims as well as educate intending pilgrims on all aspects of hajj exercise and putting forward a common understanding on critical areas that would be easy to implement while in the holy land.
Some of the people interviewed expressed their happiness on the method used in the sale of hajj seats. A resident, Malam Abubakar of Kaduna south, who has now registered for this year’s Hajj explained that he had spent over 3 years saving and waiting to pay for his hajj seat, but only succeeded this year as touts and other middlemen were disallowed from high jacking the process. He appealed to other states to emulate the strategy used by the board.