Tracereporters –Independent Hajj Reporters (IHR) has expressed worry over the apparent slow pace with which Nigerian authorities are moving as regards preparations for Hajj 2024.
The Civil Society Organisation (CSO) says the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has made it clear to all Hajj participating countries even before Hajj 2023 was rounded up that preparations for Hajj 2024 have begun.
The Ministry also informed most countries of their Hajj quota and the new policies in place for next year’s Hajj.
Specifically, the Ministry said all Hajj formalities are to be concluded at least 45 days before Hajj 2024 because the Visa issuance portal would be closed by that date.
This, according to IHR in a statement Monday signed by its national coordinator, Ibrahim Mohammed, means that Nigeria has about 4 months from now to conclude making all necessary arrangements such as collection and deposit of pilgrim’s fares, signing of MOU and engagement with service providers both at home and in Saudi Arabia.
“While we acknowledge the recent advice by the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria for pilgrims to save N4.5 million as a deposit, we believe that is not enough.
“Currently, states have less than 120 days to register 2024 intending pilgrims and we are aware of the uncertainties around how much will be the equivalent of dollar components in the hajj rate template.
“In addition, we expect that all states should have announced the commencement of registration of intending pilgrims while NAHCON on its part moves with lightning speed to negotiate how to get the foreign exchange component benchmark of the forthcoming pilgrimage. Anything short of that is simply risking Nigerians’ participation in Hajj 2024,” IHR said.
The CSO also said it expects both NAHCON and the states to have vigorously begun an enlightenment campaign regarding the existing FX policy and how it affects the Hajj fare. States Pilgrims boards must as a matter of urgent embark on state-wide publicity on 2024 registration as every other arrangement is tied to the number of pilgrims that will be registered by the states.
“As far as we are concerned, both NAHCON and the states have no option but to close ranks and work in harmony with regards to the Hajj Saving scheme because it is the best avenue available for pilgrims to save gradually and travel for Hajj whenever their savings are enough to enable them to secure a slot The recent short and shortened hajj calendar made this option imperative”.
IHR commended NAHCON for setting up a committee to search for new service providers in Saudi Arabia, the CSO however, noted that the commission should weigh the possible implications of assigning about 95,000 pilgrims to new service providers who have no previous experience in serving Nigerian Pilgrims.
More importantly, it said, all registered Mutawiff in the Kingdom have their allotted pilgrims “It is like moving from known challenges to unknown but certain headaches,” IHR said.
IHR added that both NAHCON and the States Muslim Pilgrims Boards should expeditiously embark on a nationwide campaign targeting Muslims who intend to perform the 2024 hajj to pay their deposits as soon as possible because any further delay endangers their participation in the 2024 Hajj.