By Oluwashina Iyanda
The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) says pilgrims enjoyed $410 reduction in accommodation fare in this year’s Hajj operation, among other services.
The Chairman of the commission, Alhaji Zikrullah Hassan, gave the scorecard during an interactive session with newsmen on Sunday in Lagos.
“We were able to reduce the cost of accommodation in Makkah from $930 to $520 per pilgrim during this year’s Hajj operation.
“We were also able to reduce the number of days pilgrims spent in Saudi Arabia,’’ Hassan said in the first interaction he ever held with top media gatekeepers in the Lagos axis since his assumption of office in 2020.
Other achievements recorded by the commission, according to him, included pegging Hajj fare to the barest minimum, recording a low mortality rate and achieving 95 per cent travel despite challenges associated with the post-COVID operation.
According to him, the commission was able to arrange the return journey of all pilgrims “earlier than scheduled” in spite of the fact that it had less than one month to prepare for the entire exercise.
“Normally, preparation for Hajj operations should take a minimum of six months, but we had less than one month to prepare for this year’s Hajj, which came with many challenges,” said the chairman.
He, however, identified the lack of a national carrier for transporting pilgrims to and from Saudi Arabia as a major challenge the commission is grappling with, among others.
Hassan assured that the commission has started preparation for the 2023 Hajj in earnest in order to overcome some of the challenges faced this year.
“We met with all officials of Hajj operators during Hajj 2022 for discussion on areas of service delivery to pilgrims.
“We agreed to work collectively and to improve service delivery to pilgrims by setting standards for operation.
“Preparation has already started on due diligence for the appointment of Air Carriers for the Hajj 2023 operation.’’
The chairman also unfolded a plan to fine-tune the operations of the Hajj Saving Scheme (HSS) in order to assist intending pilgrims to save enough money to fulfil their desire for the spiritual journey.
He said that countries like Malaysia and Indonesia have operated similar schemes for many years and have enough returns on investment to significantly subsidise Hajj fare.
The scheme has afforded those countries to “have enough funds in their kitty to quickly arrange for any emergent situation like Hajj 2022’’.
Hassan noted that with the HSS, NAHCON too would be in an advantageous position to negotiate services like airlift, accommodation and feeding, among others, to be provided to pilgrims.
He also hinted that the commission “is making consultations on the amendment of some sections of the NAHCON Act” to enhance its operations and smoothen the HSS.
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