• Says policy introduced to ease bottlenecks in undertaking pilgrimage
The Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Hajj Mabrur Ventures Limited (HMVL), Alhaji Abdul Hameed Solate, has called on private tour operators willing to collaborate with Hajj Mabrur for Hajj 2024 to encourage their intending pilgrims to accelerate deposits on or before the extended deadline (Wednesday, January 31,2024) set by the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON).
The Managing Director stated this in a chat with newsmen at its Anthony Village, Lagos office.
He explained that NAHCON had shortlisted only 40 private tour operators to participate in the forthcoming Hajj, adding that his agency came first during the rigorous screening exercise.
Alhaji Solate said the private tour operators will be sharing 20,000 slots, while the remaining 75,000 lots have been allocated to the state pilgrims boards by the NAHCON.
According to him, “There is more focus on the state pilgrims boards for the January 31 deadline. This is because they have more slots to share; over 75,000 pilgrims are expected. But for those of us in private, we are working around 20,000. As of now, the actual figure we are going to work on has not been clearly stated. But, we know that there are 40 companies and 20,000 allocations. So, if we are going to do an average, maybe to a mega company, 500.
“It’s from the 500 that we would also put into consideration those who are coming for collaboration. For now, any company that wants to go with us should be encouraging their intending pilgrim to start depositing before the deadline. But, for us we are on course, our intending pilgrims are already coming in, they are making their deposits.”
Alhaji Solate meanwhile noted that the deadline for deposit remittance was introduced to ease bottlenecks in undertaking a pilgrimage to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, during the Hajj 2024 exercise.
“Since Hajj is a journey that requires moving from one place to another, you have to arrange so many things such as where you are going to stay. You have to arrange some other things so that the whole rite would be performed smoothly. That’s where the issue of operation comes in.
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“In the past, people would just stand up from their houses and embark on a journey to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for Hajj, and in the process have to go through a lot of stress. To remove those bottlenecks and challenges, the issue of hajj operations came into play. People will be saddled with the responsibility of taking care of all the things intending pilgrims would need at the backend to make your hajj rites convenient for you to do, that’s where the Hajj operation comes in.
“Hajj Mabrur, for instance, eases hajj operations by ensuring the availability of all things that are necessary for our pilgrims to be able to perform their Hajj rites in the right manner with all levels of fulfilment and in line with the dictates of Quran and Sunnah. It is what we handle starting from arranging the flights, accommodations, and even the staff that will be their tour guides because Hajj is not something you just do without a guide.
“Reading books on Hajj is not enough. When the Prophet (SAW) was teaching his companions, he said; ‘Take your rites from me, perform the Hajj as you have seen me do it.’ It means he was doing it, they were looking at him, he was leading them, demonstrating for them, so that they can be able to guide people. Thus, people going for hajj need people who will guide them practically through the rites while also taking care of all the necessary things that they would need in terms of accommodations, feeding, transportation, flights and making everything hospitable for them. That’s what we do.”
Speaking on whether intending pilgrims can undertake Hajj at an individual level without involving state pilgrims boards or private tour operators, Alhaji Solate said Hajj in Nigeria has to go through the structure of government.
“Saudi authorities will give allocations to the government of Nigeria, 95,000 for example, and it will be distributed by an agent of the government (NAHCON) among the states and private tour operators. Hence, there’s no room for individual travelling. Even if you want to travel as an individual, the maximum you can do is to get another visa known as Mujamla, which is like a direct invitation from the King of Saudi Arabia. It will be issued to you directly from the embassy. Apart from that, you have to fit in and register through either the pilgrim board or a private Hajj operator.”
Alhaji Solate said Hajj Mabrur is known for quality services and they are always seeking to improve every year.
“For us at Hajj Mabrur, we have our eyes on quality services and that’s why when you look at our slogan, you will see “simply hospitality, truly spirituality”. As an intending pilgrim, when you perform hajj with us, you have that hospitality and spirituality at its peak. You also have a fulfilled Hajj. That is what we have done over the years consistently and that is what has led us to where we are today.
“We will keep doing this because the principle here for us at Hajj Mabrur family is the principle of continuous improvement. So, if you follow us to Hajj this year and you follow us the following year, you will notice something quite different from what you experienced the last time.
“Right now, we are doing our final retreat brainstorming on the good things we have to put in place for the benefit of intending pilgrims because as you know there’s always room for improvement. We believe that it is either that you are improving or going down. We work on the principle of the hadith of the Prophet (SAW) that said: ‘If you are investing on two days and everything you do on both days is the same, you are a loser’. So, if I did A & B yesterday, then I should not repeat A & B today. I should rather do A, B, C and tomorrow A, B, C, D.”