The Chairman/ CEO of the National Hajj Comission of Nigeria Alhaji Zikrullah Kunle Hassan, has expressed confidence that Nigeria will be part of the 2021 Hajj pilgrimage in the Holy Land. Alhaji Hassan said this while briefing newsmen in Abuja, Friday.
The briefing was to mark his one year in office as the chairman of the Commission.
Excerpt of his speech:
I am pleased to be in your midst this afternoon. Today’s event marks one year of assumption of the Fourth Board of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON). The event is actually organized not for the date to go unnoticed but to also use the opportunity to present to you the activities of the Commission during the period under review.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the press, since the time we assumed duties as the 4th Board of NAHCON, despite all the challenges from the Covid-19 pandemic, we made frantic efforts to at least move the activities of the Commission to the next level to enhance Hajj operations in the country generally.
Last year, precisely in February, when we formally assumed office, we immediately swung into action by continuing the preparations of Hajj 2020, from where our predecessors stopped. At that material time, the intending Pilgrims were overwhelmingly paying their Hajj fares when abruptly the breakout of the Covid-19 began to rear its face and was spreading globally like a wildfire which also prompted for the partial participation in the performance of Hajj last year.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the press, the situation of the Coronavirus did not discourage the Commission from its preparations. As at the time the Saudi Authorities made its official pronouncement on the fate of 2020 Hajj operations worldwide, the Commission was ever ready for the operation.
While the Commission was preparing for 2020 Hajj operation, it was at the same time trying to pursue some of its vital goals it desires to achieve within the first four years of tenure. At this juncture, let me emphasize that the fourth Board carefully studied the situation of Hajj operations in Nigeria; it came to conclusion that, the actualization of the establishment of the Hajj Savings Scheme in the country is the only lasting panacea to Hajj affordability and successful Operations.
Alhamdulillah, Hajj Savings Scheme is a baby which has been nurtured by the past Leaderships of the Commission. When we came on board the immediate predecessor has moved the effort to the advanced Stage. Just tail end of last year, the long awaited Hajj Savings Scheme was signed and subsequently successfully launched in Kano and Lagos at different times. Ever since, the Commission has been embarking on a robust campaigns and sensitization of the general Muslim public for acceptability of the Scheme in our society. The Commission interacted with some prominent personalities in the society such as the States Executive Governors, the Royal Fathers and other major Stakeholders.
Today, the massive registrations of the intending Pilgrims we are witnessing with the Scheme are as a result of that interaction. Nigerian Muslims are keying into the Scheme, in less than three Months of launching, good number of Muslims are already into the Scheme, ladies and gentlemen, I want to assure you that Hajj Savings Scheme has come to stay in Nigeria and with the Scheme on ground, 60% of Hajj operations perennial challenges will be solved. Nigeria’s Hajj authorities will have enough time to plan well ahead of time for Hajj operations, this single achievement will allow for more sanity in the performance of Hajj. By the time the scheme matures fully, it will boost and invigorate our national economy and provide employment for our youths.
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Another area the Commission intends to achieve is the Professionalization of Hajj Administration in Nigeria. Towards this direction, the Commission has concluded all the necessary interface with all the Stakeholders concerned, discussions have been finalized with NBTE and approval gotten to bring up a workable, Academic Curriculum for tutoring in the proposed National Hajj Training Institute.
To complement this effort and in spite of the lean resources of the Commission, we provide optimal priority on the staff training Skills development. As I am speaking to you, so many Staff of the Commission have either undergone training or are on training both locally and internationally and this will continue to enable most of our staff benefit from the training in order to enhance their productivity.
Another scorecard for the Commission is in the area of digital transformation. About a month ago, the Commission was able to successfully launch a Digital Transformation Master Plan. The project is a complete automation of process and procedures as well as human capacity development in line with NITDA e-Government Strategy to attain high efficiency in delivery services to Nigerian Pilgrims.
At present, the Commission has accomplished the following areas of the project.
Deployment of Financial Software System (80% Completion)
Deployment and complete setup of Data Economic Centre (DEC) in collaboration with NITDA.
Deployment of smart system for Licensing & Registration of Hajj Travel Agencies (70% completion)
Deployment and adoption of the Digital Transformation Master Plan.
On completion of this important project, the Human Resources Management System, the Secretariat Management System and the E-Library System will be incorporated into the automation to achieve maximum efficiency and effectiveness from these systems.
Reopening and creating new Zonal Offices and Outreaches to decongest the headquarters, ease of Administration and save cost. As we are aware, we went round to all the NAHCON’s Zonal Offices to assess the current drive of the Commission in revamping all the facilities at the Zonal Offices. The renovations from the development levy inherited from the immediate past board, is still on going, the facilities are at various stages of completion. After the project. The facilities will be put to optimal utilization in order to boost the Internally Generated Revenue of the Commission.
As regards whether Hajj 2021 will happen. I know many Nigerian are now in suspense over the issue. Nigeria, like any other nation is waiting for official pronouncement from Saudi Authorities. The current situation is that, Saudi up till date has not released any official statement with regards to whether Hajj 2021 will take place or not, but from our expectations and hopes, with the recent procurement of Covid-19 vaccination, there is hope for Hajj 2021 to take place in full performance. There is a high hope for Nigeria to be among the nations to participate in Hajj. If we follow the recent release from Saudi of the countries listed as having higher risk and banned from Umrah participation, Nigeria is not included in those Countries and at the moment, Nigerians are among the Umrah Pilgrims allowed into the Kingdom. So, for whatever reason, the Commission is making all the necessary preparations towards the 2021 Hajj Operation.
Lastly as Muslims, we have to keep in fate and take everything that happens in good faith. We pray that Allah SWA will choose whatever is good for us. At this point, I want to advise our Muslim brothers and sisters to exercise patience and pursue their good intentions of performing Hajj 2021, as the intention itself in Islam, is of Spiritual value that would be rewarded even after death.