AN OVERVIEW OF NAHCON FROM INCEPTION TO DATE
By Dr. Ibrahim Muhammad Sodangi (FCIA), Director of Administration and Human Resources, NAHCON
Hajj is one of the five (5) pillars of Islam and it’s the only pillar that is compulsory only to able Muslim. My intension in this presentation is to travel with you people the memory lane of how the Commission metamorphosed into the present status. The transformation has been the result of various efforts put in place by the staff and leadership of the Commission over the years. It is hoped that the Management of the Commission will be able to see reason with us in this journey as we pick on issues raised to make amends where necessary. The analysis will bring to the fore, the situation before the coming of National Hajj Commission, the coming and establishment of NAHCON and the challenges of NAHCON and probably some suggested area of concern for the management to consider for a robust National Hajj Commission of Nigeria.
As you may all be aware some of the reasons for the establishment of the Commission for the regulation of Hajj operations the same reasons for the direct Government involvement in the performance of Hajj in Nigeria. The involvement of two (2) countries in the affairs of Hajj also makes it imperative to have single and uniform approach to Hajj operation for bilateral reason.
The difficulties faced by Pilgrims and the need to observe International rules and regulations are among the reasons for the direct Government intervention in the area of Coordination, Operations and conducts of Hajj.
The periods before and after the coming of Europeans into contact with Africa were indeed difficult periods for the intending Pilgrims.
The creation of the total submission to God and the nourishment of one’s spirit, makes people in the earliest time, perform Hajj on foot, spending several months or years on their way. It was the Europeans that introduced some measures like passports, Immigration control, health regulations and some devices to insure Hajj operations complied with their original aim of coming to contact with Africa. Claude Ake, in his book Political Economy of Africa categorically stated that capitalism was pregnant with crisis of over production and under consumption, therefore the only option was to secure market outside Europe by ensuring complete domination of the African territories, which means any other relations by other country with dominated territories is a threat to their original economic interest. Therefore, going to Hajj will mean over bearing influence of South Africa over the territory of Nigeria, hence the need for policies that will ensure absolute control of both internal and external trades of Nigeria.(1)
HOW NATIONAL HAJJ COMMISSION OF NIGERIA (NAHCON) CAME TO BE
As described by Claude Ake, the inherent contradictions within the capitalist system put in place by the Europeans in Nigeria brought about series of crisis in the way and manner things were organized including the operation and conduct of Hajj. Some of the associated problems were:-
- Poor Coordination
- Gross Inefficiency
- Westage of Resources
- Poor Enlightenment and Education etc.
Hajj, as an International engagement that involved more than one country; and any engagement between more than one country; certain International protocols most be seen to be maintained. It is in view of this background that all Hajj participating countries were subjected to certain International standards which placed both the host country (Saudi Arabia) and the visiting countries (Nigeria) in an advantage and safe position. These safe and advantage positions include initiating policies concerning health, immunization, and other related issues, for proper and seamless Hajj operations.
The challenges of gross inefficiency here, has to do with the challenge of poor communication, challenge of poor protocol which could be translated in the area of falling below standards of the conventional agreement between Nigeria and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, on number of Pilgrims time frame within which all intending Pilgrims are expected to have been airlifted to and out of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (Before and after Hajj operations). etc
As a result of these manifested inefficiencies promoted by our entrenched capitalist systems, a lot of resources are bound to be wasted both on the part of Nigerian Government and her Saudi Arabian counterpart. So also, on the part of both countries are strives geared towards reducing these inefficiencies.
Official and unofficial corruption accounts for serious degradation and decline in the status of Nigeria and Nigerians in the eyes of not only Saudi Arabians but all other International Communities that participates in the performance of Hajj several years before now.
Poor education and enlightenment among Pilgrims rendered the Hajj of many Pilgrims in valid and in material terms greater number of Pilgrims lose significant amount of money due to in adequate knowledge , as a result of which several other innovations were introduced to address some of the problems identified over time by the present leadership of the Commission.
THE COMING OF NAHCON
The Commission was established by the Act. 2006 and is saddled with different responsibility. An example of such responsibility as mandated by the Act is to license, regulate, supervise and perform oversight functions over bodies engaged in organizing and coordinating the movement of persons from Nigeria to Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj or Umrah.
YEARS PRECEDING 2006
The first body established at the federal level and charged with managing Hajj in Nigeria was the Nigeria Pilgrims Board in 1975. Since then, different bodies have been established under the supervision of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to manage Hajj. (Usman Bugaji, 1996). However the story of Hajj many years after was characterized by poor co-ordination, gross inefficiency, wastage of resources irrespective of the qualities and integrity of Hajj managers manning the affairs at the time. You will concur to the fact that in 2004 and 2005 were years where Nigeria continuously seek an extension of airport closure due to inefficiencies in airlifting our pilgrims within schedule, coupled with fines that led to the Nigerian government paying over 2 billion naira incurred by Hajj carriers or due to its violation of contract agreement and other financial losses caused by poor management.
The situation prompted a Hajj reform initiated by the then President Olusegun Obasanjo aimed at solving Hajj problems by establishing a body independent of administrative bottle-neck and other interferences, today, the end result is the birth of National Hajj Commission Of Nigeria (NAHCON) as established by the Act Of 2006.
In consideration of all these problems and in other for the country to have a coordinated Hajj operation, successive Administrations tried to create an Agency that would oversee the activities of the Pilgrims. In 1958, the Federal Government of Nigeria, for the first time became involved in the Hajj operations especially in the area of welfare for 21,000 Pilgrims performing Hajj that year. Since the involvement of Government, Pilgrims experienced a lot of changes in the area of BTA and allocation of seats based on quota to various states.
The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) establishment Act 2006 was passed by the National Assembly and assented to by the President on 14th October, 2006. The document repealed and replaced the Nigerian Pilgrims Commission Act Cap321, law of the Federation of Nigeria 1990. For the first time in the history of Hajj in Nigeria, a coordinated approach to Hajj was put in place. The Act empowers the Commission to license, regulate and also performs oversight function on organizations, associations or any related bodies engaged in organizing Hajj and Umrah from Nigeria to Saudi Arabia.
It is also empowered to liaise and coordinate with appropriate Government Authorities or any organs of the Government/Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Authorities on Hajj and Umrah related services which includes:-
- To coordinate the provision of health, financial, security, customs, Immigration and other related services to Pilgrims.
- To ensure the establishment and Management of Pilgrims camp and other related facilities.
- To conduct educative and enlightenment campaigns for an acceptable Hajj as well as freeing Nigeria of embarrassment among a Committee of participating nations.
- To issue guidelines and rules from time to time for State Pilgrims Welfare Boards/Agencies to key in to.
- To ensure the promotion of any measure that will better the outcome of Hajj and Umrah operations.
THE STRUCTURE OF NAHCON
The Act establishing the Commission provides for the Office of
the Chairman as the Chief Executive Officer of the Commission and as a matter of fact has the following key responsibilities.
- Develop strategic plan to advance the Commission’s mission and objectives and promote revenue growth of the organization.
- Overseeing the Commission’s operations to ensured efficiency, quality service and effective Management of resources.
- Approve Commission’s operational guide, procedure, policies to ensure bilateral standard are maintained.
- Review financial reports and Statement to ensure compliance with extant financial Regulations.
- Represent the Commission within and outside the country.
In the course of discharging these responsibilities, the office of the Executive Chairman has some Units that report directly to the Chairman. These include:
- Secretary of the Commission’s office
- Legal Unit
- Internal Audit
- Protocol and Public Relations
- Saudi Arabian Liaison Office
FULL TIME AND PART TIME MEMBERS OF THE COMMISSION
The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON – ACT 2006) also made provision for three (3) full time members of the Board who assist the Executive Chairman in the running of the Commission. These full time members or Commissioners are responsible for the running of the three (3) departments as follows;
- Policy, Personnel Management and Finance Department
- Operations, Inspectorate and Licensing Department
- Planning, Research, Statistics, Information and Library Services Department
These three (3) strategic departments are carefully designed to ensure the realization of the mandate of the Commission as embedded in the Act establishing the Commission. It is not only for the purposes of realizing the mandate of the Commission but also to ensure probity, due process and accountabilities.
Meanwhile, the part-time members of the Commission were drawn from the six (6) geopolitical zones of the country probably to satisfy political interest, otherwise, representation in matters of this nature should have been on real term based, on concentration of Muslims and by implication are the potential/active participants in matters concerning Hajj and Umrah. However, this should not be our concern for now.
REPRESENTATION OF OTHER INSTITUTIONS
The Act also provided for the representation from other related Institutions because of their peculiarity and relations to the realization of the mandate of the National Hajj Commission. These Institutions are:-
- Central Bank of Nigeria
- Federal Ministry of Finance
- Ministry of Foreign Affairs
- Ministry of Health
- Ministry of Aviation
- Nigerian Immigration Service
- Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA)
- Jama’atul Nasrul Islam (JNI)
- The Presidency
STAFF OF THE COMMISSION
The Commission just like any other organization is fully funded through the releases from the approved budget. The salaries and wages of the staff of the Commission are being paid through the Integrated Payroll and Personal Information System (IPPIS). It’s important to note that it is the staff that makes the organization, not the organization that makes the individual staff.
Generally, where people operate to ensure effective and efficient performance like the Hajj operations, there is need for control mechanism and those control mechanisms are aimed at securing accountability and corresponding value for money which the Government expends.
The leadership of the Commission has always been guided by the provision of the Act by:
- Assigning responsibilities based on a clearly defined structure.
- Segregating duties through internal checks by ensuring strict chain of command and internal audit operation.
- Monitoring and Evaluation of performance through proper budgetary provisions and adherence to procurement process.
Through the above strategies, the relationship between the staff and Management of the Commission became cordial which can be seen in the outcome of our key performance indicators at the end of every Hajj operations.
This issue can be looked at in two dimensions; there are challenges which is within and those that are without .i.e. those within the control of the Commission and those that that are outside the control of the Commission. The second aspect of the challenges is teething difficult and absolutely dangerous to handle or tackled. It is hoped that, in the course of proffering solution in this presentation and others, adequate considerations will be given to issues that we do not have control over because we are all going to participate in the process of arriving at the best option to adopt by the Commission on those issues.
As for issues that we have control over, the Commission should deal decisively with them for better result.
THOSE WE HAVE CONTROL OVER
- Staff Indiscipline
- Minor Conflicting role amongst staff of the Commission or their department.
- Resistance to Change as well as any other issues that may be raised here in the course of this presentation.
THOSE WE DO NOT HAVE CONTROL OVER
These categories of challenges are challenges which the Commission does not have control over. They are external in nature, therefore, the strategy for tackling them are supposed to be different. These are:-
- Shortage and or piece-meal releases of funds.
- Incessant changes or late Introduction of policies by the S/A
- Frequent change of leadership at the State Pilgrims Welfare Boards/Agencies/Commissions.
- Human trafficking.
- The untimely release of funds despite its apparent shortage in the first place, always places the Commission in disadvantage position. No matter the zeal and determination of the Commission to achieve its set objectives, if constrain such as this is not overcome, the realization becomes difficult. The reason why most organizations could not achieve their set objectives is that, they need more than man power, useful data, as well as availability of funds. Therefore, funds should be made available to the Commission if we must achieve success.
- Another constrain comes from the (36) states and the FCT while changes occur frequently by the states Governors at the Pilgrims Welfare Boards/Agencies/Commissions. This change always causes delay and draw backed in our efforts towards realizing our set objectives. It’s important that state Governors are encouraged to allow leadership of the state Pilgrim Board to complete their term for proper planning.
iii. Frequent change of Board and leadership at State Pilgrims Welfare organizations seem to also happen in the holy land. Saudi authorities are also guilty of frequent change in policies as well as short notices which affects our efforts over the years. Saudi should be encouraged to notify Nigerian authorities on time in case of any changes.
- The activities of human traffickers grossly affect our efforts and the image of Nigeria amongst the Committee of nations. Appropriate sanction should be imposed on anybody found guilty.
These are challenges far above the control of the Commission, it is only hoped that gradually the Commission will follow up above suggestion to ensure these challenges are reduced to the barest minimum.
SOME ACHIEVEMENTS RECORDED
(a). The Commission introduced for the first time, licensing of State Pilgrims Welfare Board/Agencies/Commissions. Each body is assessed and graded ‘A,’B’, C’ or D in accordance with its structure, staffing and capacity to operate as Agency. Apart from providing a services delivery framework, the policy served as a morale booster to the state bodies to maintain their excellent performance of hard work for higher licensing category as its bring about competition.
(b). Improvement in the quality/capacity of Service Provider: NAHCON’s active involvement in regulating various service providers have raised the standard thereby eliminating brief case companies to a full-fledged companies with verifiable details such as bank accounts, adequate share capital as well staff with proven integrity to carry out their activities.
Section 4 (2) of the Act mandates the Commission in “providing accommodation, transportation and other services related to the performance of the Hajj and Umrah to pilgrims in Saudi Arabia”. It is in the realization of this section that the Commission with utmost delight has recorded the following:
(c). Improvement in quality of Pilgrim’s Accommodation in Saudi Arabia: sometimes back Nigerian pilgrims are usually accommodated in furnished apartments mostly about 20- 30 minutes’ walk from the Haram in Madinah. Now pilgrims are all accommodated in 3, 4 and 5 star hotels that are in the high-brow Markazziyya area of Madina which is between 1-5 minutes’ walk from the Haram. The Commission didn’t stop there, but went a step further to eliminate agents and now have direct dealings with the landlords. This has helped tremendously in cutting down prices thereby saving the Commission a whole lot as regards high cost.
(d). improved quality buses used in transporting pilgrims in Saudi Arabia: Nigerian pilgrims were used to being conveyed in old buses from Madinah, Makkah and Jeddah. These buses more frequent than often experiences breakdown on the roads on daily basis. This long primitive style has been abruptly outdated with the introduction of VIP buses to convey Nigerian pilgrims henceforth.
(e). Increase in efficiency of airlift and related activities: Before the establishment of the Commission, it is no doubt a norm in the country for pilgrims spending days in the airport before airlifting them to Saudi Arabia, it was far worse that the country had to continuously seek for extension even after the closure of airports. In 2005, for example over 10,000 pilgrims missed their Hajj which was largely attributed to these inefficiencies. However recently, airlifts were concluded 2 and 5 days ahead of schedule respectively. It even got better in 2017 where airlift were done on time thereby resorting to rescue flights for some Tour Operator pilgrims who were unable to airlift their pilgrims due to visa delay.
(f). Conveyance of all pilgrim luggage together with or ahead of pilgrims: Just as if the wait is not enough for the pilgrims having spent days in the airport waiting to be airlifted in those days, unfortunately, this will also have to play out as it concerns their luggage returning to the country spending days and weeks waiting. This old practice has stopped as pilgrims are now testimonies to having their luggage’s ahead or with on arrival.
(g). Delivering zamzam water to Nigeria for all pilgrims: Zamzam water delivery posed multiple challenges such as theft, mismanagement, and damages and often at times pilgrims go home without their Zamzam water. The Commission in addressing these issues introduced bulk purchase and delivery of Zamzam water for all the Pilgrims. By so doing, the Commission has since eradicated issues of theft, mismanagement and also ensuring that all pilgrims get their Zamzam water on arrival.
(h). Reduction in cases of multiple hand luggage: This has been a major challenge and still is, and the Commission is committed to bringing it down to the barest minimum by having a full Division saddled with this major responsibility. The Pilgrims Education and Orientation Division are up and doing in this regard keeping the pilgrims abreast with the do’s and don’ts. This has yielded tremendous improvement in the area of multiple hand luggage together with the pre – airport screening. It used to take 6 to 8 hours to screen a 500 load flight of Nigerian pilgrim but with all these measures, same flight takes 2 hours or less thereby ensuring timely departure.
(i). More recently, the automated Pilgrims/digitalization of Hajj Management system has solved the problems of registration, flight schedule, wealth Management system and other related computer based solution.
THE NEW APPROACH
Despite these external and internal problems, the Commission has been able to achieve to a greater degree some of its objectives through the efforts of the present Chairman.
- Since the coming of present Board there are seamless plans of Hajj operations with greater degree of services through reduction of cost of Hajj and reduction of number of days to be spent on Pilgrimage from an average of 30/40 days to maximum of 25 days.
- The introduction of Automated Pilgrims/Digitalization Hajj Management System which has gone a long way in solving the problem of Registration, flights schedules, Wealth Management System and other related complaints, using computer base solution.
- The establishment of National Hajj Institute is a welcome development with which the present leadership of the Commission will be remembered for. It will train and retrain Hajj practitioners about the dynamic of Hajj vis-à-vis Hospitality, Aviation, Logistics, Tour operations, Crowd Control and Management, Hotel and Restaurant services, Religion/Hajj Education and Economic Dynamics. The objectives of the Institute are as follows;
- To organize training, workshops, conferences, seminars and discussion forum on the proper and adequate handlings of Hajj/Umrah and Hujjaj.
- To collect, analyse and document data on the efficient Management, smooth operations and adequate handling of Hajj affairs.
- To undertake and promote research in handling various aspects of Hajj and Umrah.
- To publish books, manuals, pamphlets and video clips etc., on enlightenment and education of intending pilgrims and officials.
- To train teachers, preachers and Hajj welfare officials in disseminating the knowledge of Hajj/Umrah and how to handle and manage the Hujjaj.
- To develop enlightenment, mobilization and sensitization programmes on Hajj and Umrah by:
- Strengthening the intellectual dialogue and handling Hajj affairs in Nigeria.
- To set the minimum standard expected in Hajj operations
- National Hajj Saving Scheme is an innovation which I believe God Almighty will surely record a significant reward for the present leadership of the Commission. This is the first time in the history of Hajj in Nigeria; that the poorest of poor will be able to save money over time to go for Hajj. These opportunities were not there for them to harvest in the past.
- The management and by extension the current board of National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) has deemed it necessary to diversify the revenue generation of the Commission through the development of its unutilized portion of its property using Private Public Partnership (PPP) in Kano, Lagos, Ilorin and Maiduguri zonal offices/camps and the FCT.
This is being done in conjunction with Infrastructural Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC).
The benefit of this enormous project cannot be overemphasized as:
- It boost revenue generation of the Commission;
- It gives it the opportunity to own developed landed properties;
- It gives it the opportunity to develop its landed properties which has over the years been encroached upon for want of abandonment;
- It improve efficiency and capacity of staff of the Commission in business development and Management;
- It provides an opportunity for innovation, competitiveness and enhances staff welfare/wellbeing.
- It provides job opportunities.
Staff welfare has been very paramount to the Chairman; staff are motivated through prompt and timely promotion, to deserving staff, training and retraining, improve staff welfare and working assiduously for improve working condition of service for staff. It is only hoped that staff will give it back to the Chairman/CEO by extension the Board corresponding hard work and diligence in the discharge of official responsibilities.
Recommendations and strategies to be adopted are usually as a result of careful scrutiny of the challenges and constrains identified by the management on issues hampering the achievement and realization of target in an organization. It is therefore important that we give each and every challenge its place value and proper solution to the management on how to deal with it.
- The Commission should find way of making Accountant General of the Federation release funds on time.
- State Government should immolate the President Mohammed Buhari by allowing the leadership of state Pilgrim Welfare Boards to complete their prescribed term to ensure stability and continuity.
iii. Saudi Arabian Government should be encouraged to let the participating countries know of any change in policy on time
- More practical sanctions are impose on those found guilty to serve as lesson to other.
- Reward for an outstanding performance is encouraged for staff to put in their best.
- Stationing officer of the Commission in the holy land may not be a bad idea which I know is almost concluded.
vii. The NAHCON Private Public Partnership (PPP) initiative can be succinctly put that this giant project is capable of turning the fortunes of the Commission around if properly harnessed, as such the effort of the current Administration should be greatly encouraged and supported.
I will like to conclude this talk with the check list of what we must all do to move the Commission forward.
- Ensure zero tolerance to corruption
- Join hands to ensure our objectives are achieved
- Blow the whistle on anything that is wrong to enable us correct it
- Up hold the rule of law
- Do the right thing all the time
Thank you sincerely for listening.
- Dr. Sodangi presented this paper at NAHCON’s retreat for Board Members & Management Staff held in Bauchi State.