Rather than being a parasite, NAHCON contributes to Nigerian economy, says Commission’s CEO ( Read his full speech during the Hajj 2024 inaugural flight ceremony)

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  • “Recall that since 2016, the Federal Government had stopped sponsoring pilgrims for Hajj and gradually withdrew most of the offshore funding it used to provide to the Commission. By the year 2019 Hajj, NAHCON exhibited that the Hajj industry can remain independent of government funding. That year, the Commission conducted its offshore operations without government funding of any sort for the first time. Since then, NAHCON continued to relive this precept. Rather than being the parasite, the Commission contributed to Nigerian economy through empowerment of the country’s local airline industry and empowering local caterers to travel to Saudi Arabia as paid labour.”
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*Photo: Mallam Jalal Ahmad Arabi, NAHCON Chairman/CEO (right ) inspecting the FlyNas aircraft for the inaugural flight *

SPEECH BY NAHCON CHAIRMAN/CEO, JALAL AHMAD ARABI, OON, fwc ON THE 2024 HAJJ INAUGURAL FLIGHT CEREMONY IN BIRNIN-KEBBI, KEBBI STATE, 15th MAY, 2024 (7TH DHUL- QA’ADA, 1445H)

SALUTATIONS

From the moment the administration of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu saddled me with the leadership responsibility of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), I knew it would be daunting. I knew, because organizing the journey for over 10,000 persons from one country to another is not a casual business, how much more of organizing the movement of 95,000 personalities, each with their individual idiosyncrasies and high expectations.

I knew I was not the only Nigerian blessed with the wisdom of leading a complex industry as the Hajj institution, but because I was the one destined to bear this charge, I knew that the Almighty will not leave me without a strong support system to ease the job.

I, therefore, begin by thanking the Almighty Allah for this rare privilege to serve His guests backed by the strong pillar of support from the Presidency, especially my immediate Boss, H.E. the Vice President. Indeed, it is a rare favour that when one is tasked with an overwhelming assignment, he finds his principal ever ready to address challenges associated with the job.

This Fifth Board of NAHCON has been inspired to confront difficult options through the support and vista of new and higher standards set by this administration as the limit of acceptable performance.

Today is undoubtedly a memorable day in the short life of the Fifth Board of NAHCON because we are about to put to bed the many strategies we have conceived for the safe delivery of a well-organized Hajj season. We stand to be assessed for the promises we have made to spearhead an outing that would be recorded as one of the best in recent times. I assure you that all the essential services provided for the pilgrims are of high standard. Under the supervision of well-motivated and dedicated staff; staff that are eager to discharge their individual responsibilities, we have no doubt that our pilgrims will have reason to observe their worship in serenity and contentment.

We had several challenges to overcome before getting to where we are today. The first major challenge subdued by this management while preparing for this year’s pilgrimage is in trying to reduce the 2024 Hajj fare. Although the feat was achieved when calculated in Dollar, this may not be noticeable when converted to Naira. But the mathematicians and economists among us can attest to this fact.

NAHCON management after consultation with members of the State Pilgrims’ Welfare Boards introduced certain measures to reduce the high Hajj expenses. We reduced the length of stay in Madinah from eight days to four days and charged a fee commensurate to the four days, thereby cutting down the Madinah accommodation fees significantly after bargaining for the same luxurious hotels at a lower cost.

We reduced the PTA from eight hundred Dollars to five hundred Dollars after taking into consideration that any pilgrim in need of more Dollars can source them on their own. We believe we have made enough accommodation and feeding arrangement that would not warrant the pilgrims spending extra on these amenities, thus five hundred Dollars would suffice in this global cash crunch times.

Similarly, succeeded in moving pilgrims from the far end of Tent ‘D’ in Muna to a higher up area adjacent to Camp ‘D’ that is closer to the Jamarat.
For the first time in a long time, our team of e-tract computer savvies concluded Hajj registration and visa issuance prior to commencement of airlift. To any one privy of Hajj arrangement, this is not a small accomplishment. It means we know exactly how many pilgrims we are working for and will make enough provisions for that number.

True, the Hajj arena is a viable industry enriched with abundant prospects to keep it autonomous if properly managed. The Hajj industry is a field where the intending pilgrim, the industry managers as well as the country and host country all benefit from financially with the proper management in place. As is evident from Hajj Funds Management being practiced in a couple of countries, Hajj investment has provided financial backbone to stakeholders by promoting wealth distribution among subscribers and managers alike through low-risk investments.

This board is determined to explore wealth creating ventures that would not only contribute to the Commission’s internally generated revenue but as well contribute to overall national income.

Like my predecessors, we shall continue the path of self- sustainability through identifying and utilizing resources embedded in the Hajj ecosystem with no extra cost at all to the pilgrims.

Recall that since 2016, the Federal Government had stopped sponsoring pilgrims for Hajj and gradually withdrew most of the offshore funding it used to provide to the Commission. By the year 2019 Hajj, NAHCON exhibited that the Hajj industry can remain independent of government funding. That year, the Commission conducted its offshore operations without government funding of any sort for the first time. Since then, NAHCON continued to relive this precept. Rather than being the parasite, the Commission contributed to Nigerian economy through empowerment of the country’s local airline industry and empowering local caterers to travel to Saudi Arabia as paid labour.

This was achieved through the Commission’s insistence that all Saudi caterers must partner with a Nigerian caterer to serve our pilgrims indigenous meals. Therefore, our indigenous foods are transported from Nigeria to Saudi, boosting the country’s GDP. Similarly, NAHCON insists that service providers must include Nigerians among their Hajj labour force to enhance communication with our pilgrims.
With the vision and foresight that this board has in boosting the revenue of the Nigerian Hajj industry, I urge the Federal Government to accept our candid reassurance that any support offered to NAHCON in this regard will have a positive replica effect on the economy. We have already set the pace in the construction of hotel-like accommodations, multipurpose event centers, construction of shopping centers, just to mention a few of the initiatives of my predecessors.

At this juncture, let me congratulate our pilgrims whom Allah has chosen to answer His call this year. I call on you intending pilgrims to utilize this special privilege to serve Allah the Almighty alone and do not be distracted.

I implore you all to avoid any conduct that would dent your image or image of our dear country. Remember the lessons you learned while preparing for this exercise and know that the time has come to implement them. Also remember that you are traveling to a country where there is language barrier and a country where their laws are strictly followed for the general good of the congregation. Claiming ignorance to comply by the laid down rules or guidelines will not save one’s neck when caught in the wrong side of the law. Follow instructions of your officials or pilgrims’ guides to stay safe because they have been trained to know the dos and donts. Saudi Arabia is a country that does its possible best to give the finest hospitality to its guests, therefore we should not abuse the gesture. Abide strictly by all health regulations while in the Kingdom to avoid falling ill.

NAHCON has made the necessary arrangements for your comfort, do not hesitate to contact any of our official for assistance when in need, because they are there to serve you. Safeguard your valuables and do not carry along any prohibited item into Saudi Arabia.
The feats recorded by the board within its short lifespan would not have been possible without the collaboration of
stakeholders. I particularly wish to recognize the teamwork spirit that the Commission under my leadership has been enjoying from the States’ Pilgrims’ Welfare Boards/Agencies/Commissions. I believe the trust they hold for this board is instrumental in this regard. We certainly will not let them down. As partners, we all have stakes in the successful outcome of our tasks.

I thank the Kebbi State Governor, His Excellency Comrade Dr. Nasir Idris, who facilitated the successful launch of this inaugural flight as scheduled. The amiable governor took charge of considerable burden on NAHCON making the complex occasion seem easy and simple.

I, in the same breath thank His Excellency the President for standing up and intervening when it mattered most and ensuring that Nigerians perform this year’s Hajj when all hopes were lost. To His Excellency the Vice President, you have been inspirational and an unrepentant optimist. We depended on your guidance and direction and alhamdulillah the result is what we are commencing today- a successful 2024 Hajj in shaa Allah.

Finally, to you the pilgrims and accompanying officials remember to pray for Nigeria and its leaders. Success of our leaders is our success that translates to our wellbeing. Remember to pray for guidance for our youth as upcoming future leaders. Let us pray for all that is good to come to Nigeria.

Fiamanillah Wa Shukran Jazilan!

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