By Fatima Sanda Usara
A Nigerian Coordinating Committee that will ensure smooth introduction of Saudi immigration screening of Nigerian pilgrims in Nigeria, popularly known as the Makkah Route Initiative (MRI), was on Wednesday 28th October 2020, inaugurated in Hajj House, the NAHCON headquarters. The initiative is a partnership between NAHCON, Nigerian and Saudi Arabian immigration departments to enable screening of Nigerian pilgrims by Saudi Arabian immigration in Nigeria before departing to Saudi Arabia. Members of the committee were drawn from Nigerian Immigration Service, health sector, national security, aviation agencies and NAHCON.
*Alhaji Hassan (left)inaugurating the committee
Inaugurating the technical committee, the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON)’s Chairman, Alhaji Zikrullah Kunle Hassan described the importance of the assignment as a call to national service that will assist Nigeria in qualifying for implementation of the MRI in Nigeria. He informed the members that part of their responsibilities is to study the MRI qualification requirements and to ensure that Nigeria meets the conditions before arrival of the Saudi Arabian inspection team that will assess NAHCON’s request and readiness for inclusion in the project.
The committee’s terms of reference include, to advice NAHCON on appropriate time to host the Saudi inspection team; to facilitate positive outcome of discussions and inspection of facilities by the Saudi contingent; to advice NAHCON on draft agreement to be signed between the two countries on the MRI matter; to scrutinize the initiative for possibility of security breach and advice accordingly; to make adequate arrangement for eventual take off; to monitor the project after take-off and advice NAHCON on modification/improvement of scope thereafter; submission of periodic reports with recommendations on any matter incidental to the agreement.
The MRI is a Saudi based project that will ease immigration process and other security screening checks in Kingdom. Pilgrims from participating countries will not have to undergo another screening upon arrival in Saudi Arabia. Instead, they move straight into their waiting buses that will convey them to their hotels where their luggage will be awaiting them as well. This is because pilgrims’ luggage will be collected from them from their country’s point of screening.
Five countries have already enrolled into the scheme, which Nigeria wishes to start on an experimental stage. Following a formal request to participate in the initiative in 2018, NAHCON followed up with two different reminders for inclusion in the scheme. Expression of conditional approval finally came recently through a letter the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah sent indicating their willingness to inspect Nigeria’s facilities before taking a decision.
Members of the coordinating committee are Dr Fatima Muhammad Yusuf, Dodo Ahmad, Ibrahim Usman, Manu Mohammed, A.B Hausawa, Musa Bello and Nura Dankande. Others are NAHCON staff namely Dr. Danbaba Haruna, Uztaz Muhammad Lamim and Barrister Usman Mamza, the Commission’s Legal Adviser. The committee has Alhaji Abdullahi Magaji Hardawa, NAHCON’s Commissioner Operations, as its Chairman.
Fatima Sanda Usara is Head, Public Affairs NAHCON