By Mousa Ubandawaki
Over the last decade, the cost of Hajj has been on the spiral swing which many attributed to the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria ((NAHCON). in fact at a point, some began to query the moral leadership of the commission to administer Hajj when according to them the commission wasn’t serving the interest of Nigerian Muslims based on what they erroneously perceived as its inability or weakness to arrest the spiraling cost of Hajj in Nigeria.
While it is usually the commission that bears the brunt or backlash of fare increment, not obvious to many is the fact that there are various other elements behind the scene who shape or determine what the cost of Hajj would be as had been said time and time in many fora —principally, the Saudi Ministry of Hajj who fixes the cost of Transportation in the Holy land through the Car Syndicate and the United Agent, there is also the Airlines who fixes the cost of freight or air -ticket, the accommodation providers and caterers in Saudi Arabia, Aviation agencies in Nigeria, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) as well as the state pilgrims welfare boards, agencies or Commission while NAHCON only coordinates.
After months of savage criticism of the commission in the media especially the new media platforms, where in so many commentators including those with little or no ideas about Hajj but because it was the trending subject, they latched on it to show their presence and opinion on how the Hajj fare should be in order to vent personal anger against the management of the commission.
Now for the first time in recent time, the commission last week announced a downward review of the 2019 Hajj fare by over N50,000 (Fifty Thousand Naira.) Though this may look insignificant when filtered against the total cost earlier announced in the year. However, facts have shown that as little as N20.000 (Twenty Thousand Naira), had prevented many intending pilgrims from realizing their dream of embarking on the spiritual journey before now. In fact, a state executive secretary confided in me on how one intending pilgrims have been running from the pillar to post to raise N29.000 being remainder of the balance of his hajj fare. Though some people may never believe or have the idea of how far the reduction would go in shaping the number of pilgrims who would likely show interest to embark on this year’s hajj.
This bold step of the commission is therefore heart-warming and a welcome development to the Muslim ummah who have been clamouring or agitating for a reduction in Hajj fare in order to enable more Nigerians undertake the Holy pilgrimage.
Though it took an interesting chemistry between NAHCON and Saudi Ministry of Hajj to make this giant stride possible – the re-classification of the Nigerian routes and downward reversal of payment on the Saudi portal. Nonetheless, the commission deserves a big hug in accordance with the famous saying that “one big turn deserves another “.
One commentator and a state chief executive sum it up this way . “The time we are looking forward to has eventually come. We needed someone to lift up the spirit of Hajj Managers and NAHCON has risen to the occasion and brightened our hopes”.
With the commission now showing how far it can work to touch the base and hearts of Nigerian ummah, it really deserves a shout out from all stakeholders in the Hajj industry. This will further encourage it to do more.
Ubandawaki is a staff of National Hajj Commission of Nigeria, (NAHCON).
NAHCON: From a villain to a hero
By Mousa Ubandawaki
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