By Mousa Ubandawaki
When the new NAHCON helmsman, Malam Jalal Ahmad Arabi assumed office on the 18″ of October, 2023, he made a solemn pledge to pursue the acronym mantra of T.S.A (Trust, Sacrifice and Allah sees everything) in the administration of Hajj.
According to him, he has not come to overturn everything achleved by the former Board of the Commission but to tinker with areas that needed improvement and build on the achievement in other aspects of the exercise.
Now, four months down the line, Malam Jalal Arabi – a tested bureaucrat who retired as a Permanent Secretary in the Federal Civil Service has made some delve moves which has struck the heart of Hajj administration process, In fact by navigating uncharted territory where the fearless make history, he has demonstrated that with dedication, commitment, and support of Stakeholders, Hajj operation can be made a wonderful experience.
Let me take you on the highlight of the journey so far. The new era began with the de-briefing by the various operational committees to appraise the challenges and the overall performance and problems encountered during the 2023 Hajj and, to examine the strategic work plan on how to attain a sustainable development in the 2024 exercise.
It is a common knowledge that the signing of Memorandum of Understanding (M. O. U) usually mark the curtain raiser and the commencement of Hajj activities and preparation.
The steps taken so far in the first Pre- Hajj Visit have been quite inspiring with the bottom line being the strategy to beat down the cost of Hajj.
It is a famous saying that the longest journey begins with a single step, In this connection, the Commission’s helmsman began a high stakes meeting with the Service providers starting with the Muttawi-the company responsible for the provision of services in,Muna, Arafat and Muzdalifa (Mashair)
With light pleasantries, he sets a more upbeat tone for talks full of prickly topics, With fiexibility and adaptablity, he told them that if they indeed wanted to receive a large Contingent of pilgrims, they must bring down the cost of service.
According to him, “the adverse economic problem in the country has led to low turn-out of pilgrims and therefore the high cost will adversely affect you too. So we need to bring down the price, so that you can also provide service. We have to look deep in order to reduce the price. If we don’t make it easier for the pilgrims, we may not have the pilgrim. Therefore, whatever concession you can reduce for the sake of pilgrims, so that could be able to pay.”
Having achieved a deal with the Mutawiff, the Chairman shifted attention to the accommodation and catering providers for concession. After the staggered meeting with most of the accommodation providers which turned joyous as they also agreed to reduce the cost.
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The NAHCON helmsman gave little away as he shifted attention and put into gear another negotiation meeting with the catering service providers. It is an axiom that “no matter how much one tried to reach or teach perfection, it is a distance goal that cannot be reached “. It is in light of the above, no agreement has yet been reached with the catering providers to bring down their charges, but there is a ray of hope in this direction too.
This year’s Hajj could propel the Nation forward to bigger and better things in the near future or it could be a bucket of cold water. We however hope for the former and that brighter days are ahead especially, with the heartwarming news from the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) who had pledged to look into the request of the Commission to explore the Hajj as not only a spiritual experience but also it’s business end to guarantee the economic development where the Country can export its abundant human and economic resources to the Holy land.
While presenting his position during his visit to the IsDB headquarters in Jeddah, Malam Arabi had emphasized the need for the Islamic Bank to assist the Country through employment of high-grade professionals as well as importations of livestock from Nigeria as one of the biggest partners in the West African Sub-Region. Although, no deal was reached on this, however the delegation was able to extract a promissory notes from the Bank to continue to assist the commission in training sponsorship, capacity building of the staff engagement of Nigerian veterinary professionals in the seasonal activity of slaughtering of rams etc.
As we sprint towards the 2024 Hajj, there is a chance of a happy ending with the Commission already laying the ground work for the success of the exercise. It is therefore, imperative that for the attainment of any sustainable development, unity is important – meaning everyone must be irrevocably committed as an indivisible Hajj family.
“We must all come together to propagate a new and positive narrative that Nigeria is ready to harness her own resources to become a global player in the Hajj Industry”.
Ubandawaki is Deputy Director, Information and Publication,