New Telegraph

NAHCON’s ‘New Road’ To Makkah

I n its less than a year of operation, Hajj- Panorama.ng, foremost news platform solely dedicated to the coverage of hajj and related matters has not, for once, been found unbelievable. As at 8.33pm of Wednesday May 31, 2023, it reported that no fewer than 10,068 of Nigerian pilgrims, from different states of the federation, have been successfully flown to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj by the National Hajj Commission, (NAHCON).

NAHCON, with this, has demonstrated commitment combined with inspiring zeal and energy. The organisation has not only found a most pleasant way around the regular route on which lies the troublous Sudan, it has also, with her trajectory of excellent performance, convinced the immediate past government of President Muhammadu Buhari that it deserves some tangential government support, especially for the aviation companies, so that the burden that the rerouting from the war-ridden Sudan route wont impact too heavily on pilgrims.

The result of the smart suggestion from the Barrister Zikrullah Hassan-led NAHCON has been a most enthusiastic disposition from the enlisted airlines, both the national and the foreign, including Saudi’s Flynas. This writer has had his monitoring instinct for NAHCON activities turned on since June 2022. This happened from Makkah shortly after the hajj rites for the year were over.

NAHCON’s leadership, with an uncommon fervour for freedom of information and the complementing protocols of Open Government Partnership, (OGP), had organised a meeting, right in Makkah, where it shared her reports on the Hajj 2022 exercise, from each of all its constituent operational departments before the full glare of stakeholders.

The verdict on the preparations and the execution of the plan for what has come to be known as the “Emergency Hajj” was unanimous: excellent. It could not have been otherwise, given that it was the first outing of the sitting leadership captained by Zikrullah Hassan, credited with prized pedigree of combined experiential assets in hajj management across all the three tiers of private, sub-national and eventually the national level.

The endorsement from Nigerian stakeholders was later reinforced by the Hajj authorities of other African countries who, beyond a passing validation, voted Nigeria, and impliedly, Hassan, as their unanimous leader. In the light of all these obviously, NAH- CON braced up early for greater accomplishments as envisioned from inception in line with the sanctity of amana or trust in Islam.

Incidentally, the wider environment of operations has not been quite favourable to the ambition of the Hassan-led team of NAH- CON to actualise optimally friendly regime. Against the well schemed design to crash the cost of accommodation for pilgrims, this focused leadership engaged directly with the relevant authorities and owners.

With them, the rate-spiking middlemen no longer have a space and therefore earning substantial gains for the pilgrims. But that was one joy with a slender body, to paraphrase Ola Rotimi. As with other monetary policies, the exchange rate regime turned out to skid on to a downward slope leaving the pilgrims and other dollar dependent transactions helpless.

All gains earned from shrewd engagements by the NAHCON leadership got summarily frittered away. What would then have happened if some gains had not been secured in the first instance? For one whose age-old philosophy in all spheres of life are transparency twinning with accountability while emphasizing merit, nothing less than demonstrative expressions of abundant thanks to Allah in all possible ways should hold sway.

The paramountcy of the health of the pilgrims for instance is non-negotiable. Beyond the clinical attention accorded the medical services in the previous years therefore, NAH- CON, this year, published its recruitment agenda for medics and paramedics for the 2023 hajj. Since the recruitment exercise was concluded weeks back, it has been plaudits all the way being unprecedented.

Most commendable, there has not been any visible complaint from any quarter. Indeed, as we write, some members of the medical team are already in Saudi Arabia having gone ahead of the first set of pilgrims.

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