The Hajj Savings Scheme (HSS) recently launched by the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu, for states in the South West region, including Private Tour Operators and the Nigeria Armed Forces, is aimed at bringing succor to all the less privileged intending pilgrims who are usually hindered by financial burden from satisfying a life-time ambition of performing the Hajj rites in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Performance of Hajj, the fifth pillar of Islam, means aspiration towards a higher spiritual pedestal. It is a divinely ordained pilgrimage based on piety for Muslims who can afford it. The Holy Qur’an Chapter 22 (Surat-ul-Hajj) is dedicated to the institution of Hajj and this is where Muslims around the world actually derived their spiritual authority to perform the Hajj rites annually.
The HSS is a developmental approach that seeks to liberalize payment, build value chains, overcome infrastructure deficit and also address the issue of inequality in the country. The veracity and importance of the newly introduced scheme, which is a tripartite arrangement among the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), Forum of States Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Boards and Jaiz Bank of Nigeria was brought to the front burner during its official launch on Sunday 20th December, 2020.
The Lagos State Governor, who was represented at the event by his deputy, Dr. Kadri Obafemi Hamzat, urged intending pilgrims to embrace the scheme. According to him, the scheme was designed to avail the less privileged Muslims the opportunity of seamlessly saving enough money, over a period of time/years when the money would have matured, to facilitate their travelling to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to fulfill a major pillar of Islam.
The scheme is really a welcome development, especially in view of the global economic meltdown occasioned by the ravaging Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. With the economic situation, many intending pilgrims might obviously not be able to achieve the aspiration. The scheme is, therefore, an ingenious initiative intended to creatively sort out the financial impediment.
The choice of Lagos for the launching of 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. Lagos is the window through which the world views Nigeria and it is also the country’s commercial and economic hub where systemic governance has been taken to a laudable height. It is, therefore, not surprising that Lagos was chosen for the historic take off of the scheme.
Teeming Muslim faithfuls, especially the low income earners should, no doubt, be eager to take advantage of the initiative in view of its flexibility and affordability. It is, indeed, a new dawn in the history of pilgrim administration in the country.
The introduction of the HSS was one of the strategic move towards achieving the desired goal as enshrined in NAHCON’s establishment Act 7 sub section (1) which empowers it to, “establish, supervise and regulate a system of Hajj Savings Scheme to be operated by the Pilgrims Welfare Board of each State and FCT for interested pilgrims”.
The choice of Jaiz Bank Plc for the take-off of the HSS, is quite instructive as the bank, for about a decade, has been working to develop and provide framework for integrating old payment system with modern day service in order to improve Hajj administration.
Other benefits of the scheme include, protecting intending pilgrims against potential fraudsters; intending pilgrims no longer need to sell off or dispose their properties or life savings to fulfill their religious obligation to the Holy land; provide reliable and accurate data for effective and efficient service delivery; enhance advance planning for accommodation, feeding, airlift operation and strengthen the economic capacity of contributors.
Others are; it offers subsidy and a great opportunity to reduce the cost of Hajj, job creation through pockets of portfolio investment, aligned the country’s Hajj system to global standard as well as boost the country’s GDP and providing economic power to the citizens.
The various options through which intending pilgrims/depositors can participate or be enrolled according in the scheme are: Enrolment through the State Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Board/Agencies/Commission; Enrolment through any Jaiz Bank outlet or through the Hajj Savings Scheme App: hajj savings.jaizbankplc.com or Bulk payment or usual Pay-As- You-Go through the Private Tour Operators.
Considering its various advantages, all tiers of governments, traditional and religious leaders as well as other stakeholders are enjoined to assist in sensitizing the Muslims on the need to embrace the scheme in order to enjoy its enormous benefits.
Lawal is of the Public Affairs Unit, Lagos State Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Board, Ikeja.