Welcome, Nigeria’s Hajj Savings Scheme – By Bala Muhammed

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WELCOME, NIGERIA’S HAJJ SAVINGS SCHEME – By Bala Muhammad   (balamuhammad@hotmail.com )

  • L-R: Alhaji Zikrullah Kunle Hassan, Chiarman/CEO NAHCON, Alhaji Umaru Mutallab , Chairman Jaiz Bank during the signing of the Hajj Savings Scheme agreement *

 

On Thursday last week, the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) launched one of the most-awaited items on the Nigerian Muslim Agenda – the Hajj  Savings Scheme (HSS), a historic milestone in the Commission’s masterplan and a  scheme that has taken many years to build. Although it is said ‘better late than  never’, a savings scheme like this should have been in place for at least since the Hajj  business began in Nigeria, and that was a long time ago.
* NAHCON Chairman/CEO *
But alhamdu lilLah, NAHCON has finally made it on this all-important scheme that  could see to the revolutionising of the affairs of Nigerian pilgrimage, as well as  providing a needed impetus to make Muslims inculcate the habit and mindset of  saving the halal way. As expected, Ja’iz Bank, Nigeria’s premier Islamic financial  institution, has been selected to manage the HSS on behalf of the Commission.
Therefore, the launching and signing of agreement between NAHCON and Ja’iz Bank  nine days ago were important steps towards a long and hopefully successful  endeavour.
The Hajj Savings Scheme, according to the Commission, will create an avenue for  intending Nigerian Muslim pilgrims to save towards fulfilling one of the pillars of  Islam; going on Hajj (pilgrimage to the holy lands of Makkah and Madina). The  scheme provides for intending pilgrims to go for Hajj from Nigeria, irrespective of
their income, locality and status. The scheme shall assist low income earners and the  general public to save at their convenience towards meeting their goal of going on  pilgrimage.
Modelled after Malaysia’s Tabung Haji (TH), which has been in existence for over  half a century, the Nigerian version has a vision of creating a platform that will ease  Hajj enrolment for Nigerian pilgrims in such a way that even the poorest Muslim will  have the opportunity of performing Hajj through self-sponsorship. This will be made
possible through a gradual deposit of monies that will be invested on behalf of the  depositor until it reaches the desired amount for Hajj fare.
Launching the scheme September 10, both NAHCON Chairman Barrister Zikrullah  Kunle Hassan and Ja’az Bank Chairman Alhaji Umaru Mutallab were full of hope, for the scheme to come on stream in their (and our) lifetime, praying Allah to bless the  initiative and the funds to be managed therefrom.
The idea to set up a Hajj Pilgrims’ Savings Scheme in Malaysia, which brought  Tabung Haji, was triggered by a proposal made by in 1959 by renowned Malay  economist, Professor Abdul Aziz Abdul Hamid, to the Malaysian Federal Government for the establishment of such a venture. And the government accepted – and Tabung
Haji was born. Now, 61 years later, Nigeria is following suit.
* Professor Abdul Aziz Abdul Hamid *
Prior to the establishment of Tabung Haji in Malaysia, there was no Islamic financial  institution that provided services to the country’s Muslim population to save for hajj  expenses. Even though several banks were already operating, the Muslims were  reluctant to use conventional banking for their Hajj Savings because they wanted to
ensure that their Hajj savings were free from riba (usury) in order to attain a Mabrur (accepted)  Hajj.
Malaysia’s TH, which began in September 1963, grew from three bank branches to  over a hundred branches; from 1,281 initial depositors in 1963 to over 9 million  depositors today, plus over 1.8 billion dollars in revenue. It has 125 branches and  more than 10,000 touch-points, as they call micro-branches. The target of Nigeria’s  Hajj Savings Scheme is to achieve and surpass this. NAHCON believes it is  achievable in view of the numerical advantage Nigeria enjoys relative to Malaysia’s.
* NAHCON Head Office in Abuja *
Tabung Haji has today become a gigantic economic and financial institution adding  value to the economy of Muslims and facilitating the performance of Hajj for the poor  who could save, little by little, over many years to be able to fulfil this fifth pillar of  Islam – pilgrimage.
* Pilgrims in Saudi Arabia *
Monies deposited under the Nigerian HSS will be invested in Shari’a compliant  ventures with profits credited to the depositor according to Islamic formula of profit  sharing. The Commission’s prognosis is that, with Hajj Savings Scheme, the future of  pre-planned Hajj is here. On the part of Hajj administrators, a pre-planned Hajj will
facilitate Hajj arrangement years in advance. It will be goodbye to projective  planning (for unspecified number of people) due to delay in Hajj fare remittance.
A pre-planned Hajj on the part of the depositor means an investor may select the year  he or she plans to undertake the Hajj trip regardless of the fact the required amount  had been met. The depositor’s profit will continue to accrue notwithstanding.
Pre-planned Hajj means an intending pilgrim does not have to sell himself into  poverty due to yearning to worship His Lord on Arafat day, but to save gradually and patiently for his return. With pre-planned Hajj, priority for Hajj slots will be given to depositors under the  scheme on the basis of first-comers whose funds had reached the required amount. For  example, if Nigeria’s allocated slot is 95,000 and 100,000 have qualified, priority will  be given to the first 95 that have met the target if they desire to perform the Hajj  that year. The remaining depositors will then be rolled-over to subsequent years. Of  course, the cash and carry Hajj slot will still be available, but with conditions.
The HSS is expected to contribute to the Nigerian economy in various ways such as  utilizing otherwise dormant funds and through tax generation. It is also a means of  empowering state pilgrims’ welfare boards with revenue for maximum productivity.
Hopefully, zakat that will accrue from the profits will be used as social safety net to  serve the Muslim community and by extension, the Nigerian public.
The scheme is currently coming in collaboration with Ja’iz bank during this first  phase. At a later time when all necessary governmental procedures are finalised,
NAHCON, under HSS trustees, will be sole manager of the scheme. To enrol,  interested persons may do so through their various States’ Muslim Pilgrims’ Welfare  Boards, NAHCON Zonal Offices, closest Ja’iz Bank branches or online from the  comfort of their rooms through NAHCON website.
It is the hope of Nigerian Muslims that NAHCON’ s HSS will perfectly mirror  Malaysia’s TH in strengthening the economy of the Ummah, consolidating and  enriching depositors’ funds and, ultimately, facilitatimg and assisting pilgrims achieve a Hajj Mabrur in sha Allah.

 

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