By Fatima Sanda Usara
This piece is the writer’s personal celebration of some former colleagues that ventured into an enterprise ingeniously, a move that was regarded by like minds in Hajj corridors as phenomenal. It sounds unavoidably extolling, it is not intended to be excessive though. It is a celebration of cleverness, that shows again that one can retire from civil service and grow in a wider realm of private practice. If more civil servants would pursue similar initiatives, retirement would not be a dread.
This write-up is celebrating the faces behind Aero Contractors in the 2023 Hajj airlift. For the first time, the airline ventured into the business of Hajj airlift in Nigeria with an assurance that they can give one of the best workable formulas in Hajj aviation symbiosis. Of course, they went through the same screening process as all else did. There was skepticism from their status as first timers in the unique Hajj aviation industry where even a longtimer could turn out to be the predicament of the season. Despite a convincing pass mark from the screening result, their albatross was their novelty, they were allocated the least from the 2023 Hajj airlift slots else they would stutter. By the time they were done with the outbound operation, they left no one in doubt of their capacity.
Old guards from the family of National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), with a wealth of on-the-field experience in Hajj operations came together to float Aero Contractors in the 2023 Hajj airlift business. This marriage made an impressive impact on the 2023 Hajj outbound and inbound operations.
With its Boeing 747 aircraft, Aero contractors concluded airlift of its allotted portion of passengers within time, and became the toast and hope for the later part of the outbound operation. From an initial allocation of 7,266 pilgrims, Aero Contractors was sought to expand its route. The airline ended up transporting 11,676 pilgrims from six states for the 2023 Hajj outbound operations. No doubt, instead of confining their knowledge to reclusion, their entry into the private aviation business was a boost to 2023 airlift.
The trio of Alhaji Ahmad Maigari, former Acting Secretary of NAHCON; Alhaji Uba Mana, a retired Director from NAHCON’s Media Unit; were led by their colleague, Alhaji Liman Usman, former Head of Licensing; to make a rebound into the Hajj industry through the aviation sphere. These are advantaged men known to shapers of the industry within Nigeria and in Saudi Arabia therefore needed no re-introduction around the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s civil aviation quarters, hence they enjoyed cooperation with their debut. The lesson here is for one to identify his strength and grab it while it is still relevant. This group of NAHCON former men knew their advantages and they grabbed it wisely-, the value of experience is in seeing wisely, and good decisions come from experience which worked for Aero Contractors.
Hajj operation is a distinct school on its own, because it is a field that demands practical experience to really grasp the complexity of the system. Its management across the world is expanding beyond religious exercise to economic, technological frontiers demanding constant creativity to meet up with and surmount new challenges. Expertise in the field of Hajj management accords the experienced manager that eagle eye that identifies an advantage or solution when the usual glitch rears its ugly head. The NAHCON former men tactically avoided the glitches from experience. Kudos to the Zikrullah Kunle Hassan’s team for giving Aero Contractors the window to prove their capacity to deliver. An indelible discovery has been made in the Hajj industry.
Our experienced colleagues came in from behind each time to rescue the Hajj operations whenever a hag appeared. In the inbound operations too, they played a significant role in the timely movement of pilgrims back home despite the initial near catastrophic non allocation of slots to Nigerian airlines.
Indeed, experience is the fertile ground on which NAHCON former men launched their entrance into independent Hajj operations. They must be commended and encouraged to dash even further.
And for the sake of thousands of pilgrims who trustingly commit their earnings to travel for Hajj each year, let experienced persons come together with brilliant initiatives that would uplift the Hajj encounter from Nigeria for good. This should be a target for the country’s Hajj minders, a joint venture for the good of all. No single person can raise the status of Hajj in Nigeria with finality except there is combined effort. It requires an alliance: of skills, willpower, focus and foresight, sacrifice, and an unwavering army of intelligent foot-soldiers as manpower.
Usara is an Assistant Director with NAHCON