The Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu has implored Muslims in the State to embrace the newly introduced Hajj Savings Scheme (HSS).
He gave the advice Sunday during the flag off ceremony of the Scheme, held at the Eko FM Marquee, LTV complex, Agindingbi, Ikeja.
The Governor who was represented by his deputy, Dr. Kadri Obafemi Hamzat, noted that the scheme was designed by the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) to avail the less privileged Muslims the opportunity of saving enough money over a period of time/years to fulfil one of the pillars of Islam in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
He described the lofty initiative implemented by NAHCON in collaboration with the Forum of States Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Board and Jaiz Bank Plc as a welcome development, especially as it was coming at a time that the global economic meltdown is affecting virtually everybody and countries of the world including Nigeria.
While assuring NAHCON of Lagos State Government’s support for all its laudable initiatives aimed at improving the narratives of Hajj operations, he appreciated NAHCON helmsman, Alhaji Zhikrullah Hassan for giving Lagos State the right of hosting the laudable project in the South West zone.
Sanwo-Olu used the occasion to appeal to everyone to protect themselves against the second wave of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
He said, “As we looked forward to next year’s Hajj exercise, it is pertinent to let our people know that the second wave of the pandemic is being reported around the globe. The disease is still very much around and active. We must therefore ensure that we know our status and adhere strictly to the laid down protocols of social distancing, regular hand washing with soap and running water, using the hand sanitizers, wearing of face masks, avoid hugging, hand shake and large gatherings, amongst others “.
Speaking earlier, the Chairman/CEO of NAHCON, Alhaji Zikrullah Hassan, stated that the choice of Lagos for launching the scheme was not a mere coincidence but a decision deliberately taken because of the historic and special status of Lagos as the first departure centre in the Southern Nigeria for the airlift of Muslim pilgrims to Saudi Arabia as well as its role as the Centre of commerce and hosts of largest concentration of prospective pilgrims in Southern Nigeria.
He emphasised that the operationalization of the Hajj Savings Scheme is a historic milestone towards self-financing that will wean us from depending on the scarce government resources which can be utilised for provision of infrastructure and other social services in the country.
In his opening remarks, the Chairman of the occasion, Prof Daud Noibi affirmed that the event was a landmark. He noted that the Act (2006) that established NAHCON, mandated it to establish, supervise and regulate a system of Hajj Savings Scheme to be operated by the Pilgrims Welfare Board of each State and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) for interested pilgrims.
While stating that the scheme would make the job of NAHCON easier and more effective as it facilitates better planning and gradual financial independence, he said, “With the launching of the scheme today, we shall have embarked on an empowerment venture that has proved to be viable for countries like Malaysia and Indonesia whose pilgrims are well known among international community of pilgrims to be well organised”.
Earlier in his welcome address, the Hon. Commissioner for Home Affairs, Prince Anofiu Elegushi noted that the HSS initiative will have a positive impact on Hajj administration in Nigeria and also go a long way at creating an enabling environment and avenue for Intending pilgrims to contribute gradually towards the actualisation of their dream of becoming an Alhaji or Alhaja in no distance future.
The event was as graced by many dignitaries amongst which are Muslim clerics, Islamic Scholars, academics and stakeholders in the Hajj administration in Nigeria.