The Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), Alh. Zikrullah Kunle Hassan, has said that the Commission is still waiting for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to make an official decision on the 2020 Hajj pilgrimage before making its own.
The CEO spoke at a Seminar hosted by Association of Hajj and Umrah Operators of Nigeria (NAHCON) via Zoom Video Conference on the topic “The Future of Hajj and Umrah operations After the Pandemic”.
The Chairman who was the Lead Discussant stated among others, the economic impact of the Covid-19 on Hajj in Nigeria, alternative action or activities that can be undertaken by Muslims that had plans to perform this year’s Hajj in the face of global lockdown,expressed the optimism that the 2020 Hajj could still hold in spite of the fear and uncertainty due to the Corona Virus pandemic.
According to him “ only the Saudi authorities can take the final decision. We can only take our own decision in the light of Saudi’s”. He expressed the hope that the 2020 Hajj may eventually agree to conduct Hajj 2020 against the backdrop of the kingdom forward steps to combat the spread of the virus and the number of recoveries recorded.
He highlighted some of the heart warming factors to include, the recent reopening of the mosques for prayers and easing of lockdown across the country.
He added that installation of Advanced Self Sterilization machine at the gates of the masjid to spray antiseptic fluids on pilgrims and the rate of recoveries of infected persons, reduction in the number of positive cases and opening of six large diagnostic laboratories are testimonies that the 2020 pilgrimage could be eventually held. “All of these steps are pointers that the Saudi Government may be brazing up to organize 2020 Hajj and these give me the optimism”
The Chairman however pointed out that the Saudi Government may impose some measures to address the situation especially probable reduction of global allocation, banning people at high – risk Covid-19 case like the elderly, in addition to health monitoring, Quarantine and disinfection of people aside observing the social distancing protocol in Mina, Arafat and precinct of kaaba.
Alh Zikrullah who described Hajj as a veritable platform on which Muslims pray fervently for spiritual upliftment, forgiveness of sins, and seek for personal needs, said that much as he prayed and hope for the Hajj to hold, he was not oblivious that it may come with some stringent measures, so as to safeguard the health and lives of people.
“I’m praying and I believe everyone of us is praying too seeking the mercy and help of Allah that this pandemic passes away quickly.
But even then, we should not deceive ourselves to think that it would be like the previous ones”
He explained that the conduct of the Hajj may come with possibilities of certain restrictions as the Saudi Government may introduce some guidelines to curb the spread of the virus. “But I still would believe that this may come with certain conditionalities. It may not be the usual way of doing Hajj. People might have to go through self isolation or outright quarantine. Besides, the issue of social distancing may be adopted during religious rites in accommodation and transportation “
According to him, the Kingdom might also adopt other measures like pegging the allocation of pilgrims allowed each country, banning of pilgrims from countries with prevalent case of the Covid-19, exemption of certain category of persons like the aged, person with underlying health challenge or complications, person testing positive for Covid-19.
The Chairman therefore admonished intending pilgrims to accept whatever decision taken by the Saudi Government as the Will of Allah, noting that the religion of Islam places more value on life than any religious rites. He assured that the Commission was taking great steps to ensure the welfare of pilgrims whether the 2020 Hajj holds or not.
“As a Muslims, let us continue to call on Almighty Allah to have mercy, to assist us and decide whatever will be the best for us. Our prayers should be let the Will of Allah prevail as He won’t saddle us with the burden or responsibility we can’t carry. Let’s also support the initiatives outlined by the various arms of Government to combat the pandemic “
He added that the Commission would continue to emphasize the need for pilgrims to abide by the Federal Government /NCDC guidelines and directives on social distancing, use of face mask and visitation and interaction in public places in order to stay safe adding that, the commission had begun massive education and sensitization of the pilgrims in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Health, State pilgrims welfare boards, and the private tour operators through its sponsored programs being carried out in the major Nigerian languages on the Television and Radio stations across the country to avoid contracting and spread of the virus.
Alh Zikrullah however assured of the Commission’s resolve to support private tour operators in the country to bounce back having been massively hit financially by the pandemic. Like every sector in the world, the Covid 19 has hit the tour operators heavily and pleaded for the Federal Government intervention in the way of financial bailout or stimulus package for them to save the industry from total collapse.
He assured that the Commission would strive to assist members of the association in retrieving their deposits made to Saudi Government or service providers in case the 2020 Hajj is canceled. He said “I want to assure you without any benefit of doubt that whatever commitment you made in terms of deposit, payment to service providers will be refunded to the beneficiaries intact.
The Chairman further expressed support for the Federal Government and National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) actions in their effort to to prevent and eradicate the disease in the country
Other Discuss ants at the event included Mr Yinka Folami, Chief executive officer of Travels and Logistics Centre, Alh Aminu Agoha, a former President of AHUON and CEO /Managing Director of Visa Travels and Tour Limited.
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