Civil Society Organisation, CSO, has urged the National Assembly members to suspend all actions that are capable of jeopardizing the participation of Nigerians in the 2022 Hajj.
The organisation which monitors and reports Hajj activities in Nigeria and Saudi Arabia under the aegis of Independent Hajj Reporters stated this in a statement on Wednesday.
The statement, signed by Independent Hajj Reporters’ national coordinator, Ibrahim Muhammad, said the recent moves by the Senate and House of Representatives to amend the National Hajj Commission of Nigerian (NAHCON) Act as it relates to the operations of the Hajj Saving Scheme (HSS) came at a wrong time.
The group said though it acknowledged NASS constitutional responsibility of making laws, amend same or performing oversight functions but the sudden interest of the lawmakers on the Hajj Saving Scheme poses a serious danger to the possibility of Nigerian intending pilgrims to perform Hajj 2022.
“The senate, in a motion sponsored by Senator Ibrahim Danbaba (Sokoto South, APC) is planning to amend the law to compel NAHCON to domicile all funds accruing to the Hajj Savings Scheme in the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) instead of commercial banks.
“Earlier, the House of Representatives had directed NAHCON to suspend the implementation of the Hajj Saving Scheme after one of the lawmakers raised a motion for the investigation of HSS.
“Independent Hajj Reporters believes that the “timing of this bill will hamper the operational ecosystem and alter the status quo of Hajj activities which will adversely affect this year’s pilgrimage”.
The statement added that, “our appeal for the suspension of any action that can create operational challenges is centered on the interest of 2022 intending pilgrims who are not party to the current administrative and legal squabbles.
“Further actions on how to make Hajj operations a success in Nigeria can be reactivated after 2022 Hajj without disrupting the Hajj industry,” the CSO said.
The CSO said “since 2019, our dear intending pilgrims has paid to travel to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to fulfill the fifth pillar of Islam. Unfortunately, COVID – 19 shattered their hope of performing Hajj as at when they desire.”
“It is interesting to note that thousands of intending pilgrims’ Hajj fare is currently domiciled in Hajj Saving Scheme with Jaiz Bank. Therefore, suspending such scheme now will definitely affect 2022 Hajj pilgrims because of limited time,” the CSO said.
It argued that the airlift of this year’s pilgrims will begin on May 31, according to the timetable released by Saudi Arabia General Authority of Civil Aviation. This alone, the CSO said, leaves Nigeria and other Hajj participating countries the maximum of less than 30 days to complete all preparation for the transportation of about 43,000 Nigerian pilgrims to Saudi Arabia.
Independent Hajj Reporters said with this development, “subjecting NAHCON or States Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Boards officials to other engagements will definitely create unwarranted distraction that may jeopardize 2022 Hajj.”
The CSO urged the two chambers of the National Assembly and all Hajj stakeholders in the country to work towards a seamless conduct of 2022 Hajj for the sake of Nigerian intending pilgrims who have deposited nearly N2.5 million each to enable them perform Hajj.