We will continously strive to improve on our service delivery , NAHCON Chairman pledges

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*Photo: Alh Hassan *

Chairman/CEO of National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), Alhaji Zikrullah Kunle Hassan has given assurance that the Commission will continue to strive to improve on its service delivery.

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“We will strive continuously to improve on service delivery to those we have been statutorily mandated to serve. For us, having agreed to serve in this capacity, there is no going back even as we will not be contented with half measures.  We are committed to excellence for which we have been known. We are determined to hoist Nigeria’s flag higher amongst others given the diplomatic values of hajj beyond the religious,” Alhaji Hassan said in Abuja on Wednesday at his maiden interactive session with media executives.

He said “Since we assumed the leadership of NAHCON in 2020, the 2022 Hajj, otherwise globally renowned as “emergency Hajj” was our first, no thanks to the calamitous covid-19 pandemic. We can’t thank Allah enough for sparing our lives till date after the all-involving experience.  We can only continue to beseech him for more favours.”

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Doing a review of that Hajj exercise, he pointed out that “although Hajj is a once-a-year exercise, its preparations span a whole year to enable it to succeed.  But that routine of full year preparations did not happen for the emergency Hajj of 2022 and that was why it was labeled emergency Hajj. 

“It took just about six months to prepare for it even as Hajj had been cancelled for two previous years to the utmost distaste of intending pilgrims for those years.”

He said although the Commission  was busy with planning during the period of the pandemic, Saudi Arabia authorities introduced new measures when they finally announced that Hajj would take place in 2022 and the very short time given to comply with them led to huge logistic problems.

Alhaji Hassan said “Worse, when the 2022 hajj was finally announced by the Saudi Arabia authorities to be possible, the number to be allowed had been severely slashed by more than 50%.

“Nigeria that used to be allowed to present 95,000 pilgrims had its own cut down to 43,000.  With less than six months to tidy up, there had also appeared some other unusual intervening variables to contend with.”

The NAHCON Chairman said the commission recorded many successes in the conduct of the 2022 Hajj exercise despite the  constraints and noted that the achievement included : (that)The Commission was able to peg Hajj fare to its barest minimum despite the obviously daunting economic challenges (local & global);  We had low mortality rate during Hajj 2022;  95% traveled despite challenges; Return journey ended earlier than scheduled; Reduction in the cost of Makkah accommodation and reduction in the number of days pilgrims spent in Saudi Arabia.

He told the editors present that “We are happy to announce to you that on account of the enhanced performance in this year’s hajj by NAHCON, all other African countries consensually deferred to us to lead them in interfacing with the Saudi authorities.  It was not for nothing that the concession for compensation that NAHCON secured from Saudi service providers for Nigerian pilgrims before returning home after the Hajj on the poor quality of some services have just been secured by other countries like Indonesia weeks after the end of the Hajj exercise.

“With our expertise as a business enthusiast and manager and conscious of our aspirations and advocacy on welfare for Nigerian muslim pilgrims dating back to previous roles in this sector, we took on the challenge of negotiating away some overheads for Nigerian pilgrims to relieve them of some financial burdens even as we insisted on high quality welfare.

“We dispensed with as many middlemen as possible in all transactions ending up.  Not again are Nigerian pilgrims quartered in some difficult terrains.  This year we shared, so to say, same level with at least D8 countries like Turkey, the fastest growing economy in Europe as well as Bangladesh, currently the world’s largest producer of garments and indeed, one country with the highest radicalized agricultural reforms.

Alhaji Hassan said no subvention was drawn from government by NAHCON in recording those achievements, even as he disclosed that sources of the challenges encountered have been identified with a view to improving on the management of future exercises.

He assured that” We are even poised to achieve more as NAHCON staff are now being prepared to take on additional challenge of hajj period passport management hitherto the exclusive preserve of Saudi agencies for some handsome fee.

He said the Commission had started preparations for Hajj 2023 and also started discussions with relevant Saudi authorities for early dissemination of information concerning Hajj and also met with Muassassah during Hajj 2022 especially on area of service delivery to pilgrims.

The NAHCON Chairman equally said preparation had already started on Due diligence on appointment of Air Carriers while consultation on amendment of some sections of the NAHCON Act are also on to enable smooth operation of Hajj Savings Scheme (HSS).

He promised that the Commission is determined “to advance Nigerians’ interest in Saudi and we’d deploy all our relevant endowments in this direction particularly our experiential assets as earlier hinted being a fairly experienced player across the public and private sectors.  Yet, we are fully prepared to domesticate in the Hajj sector the President Buhari’s subscription to Open Government Partnership, OGP, deriving from the enactment of the Freedom of Information Act of 2011. “

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