Prof. Isma’ila Shehu has urged the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) to insist on engaging trained, competent and certified personnel to manage its annual hajj operations.
Shehu, who is of the Department of Political Science and International Studies, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, made the call at the 2023 Hajj Lecture/Award, held on Thursday in Abuja.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the event was organised by the Independent Hajj Reporters ( IHR), a Civil Society Organisation that monitors and reports hajj activities in Nigeria and Saudi Arabia.
The don also advised NAHCON to put in place all the requirements for the seamless implementation of its Hajj Saving Scheme.
This, he said, is with a view to making low-income earners enjoy benefits of Islamic finance.
Shehu said: ” With the exorbitant price and progressively changing policies of the Saudi Ministry for Hajj Affairs, the reality and inevitability of queuing for hajj has never been starker.
” NAHCON should insist on seeing that hajj operations are handled not just by administrators, but also by competent, trained and certified persons who must have imbibed the vocational spirit of humanitarian service, self-denial and trust in the business of hajj management.
” There is a need for a general redefinition and appreciation of the changing dimensions of hajj. Instead of simple administrators.
” We need managers who would make pilgrimage to transcend the level of spiritual trip to that of an organized global business that can enhance international trade and diplomatic relations.
” This reality should open the vistas for greater collaboration between and among states/nations as well as business agencies that would advance multilateral economic relations.”
The don also emphasised the need for NAHCON to deepen its commitment to safeguarding pilgrims’ welfare by making provisions that would add value to the huge amount paid for hajj.
He added: ” For instance, its savings scheme can be made to roll over a period of up to five years of installments.
“This would reduce anxieties among prospective pilgrims and imbue them with mental stability and assurance of making the trip.
” However, special consideration should be given to those who, for one reason or another, may justifiably be allowed to go as they pay.”
Shehu enjoined the commission to harmonise accommodation arrangements in Makkah to shelter the pilgrims close to the haram (mosque) like the case in Madinah.
“To achieve its objective of turning waste to wealth, NAHCON should take much keener interest in its training institute for hajj managers.
”Beyond cognate experience of potential pilgrim officers, they should be certified by the commission’s institute or any other training school that has bearing with tourism or air travel business,”Shehu said.
He urged NAHCON’s operatives and their counterparts at the state levels to lead by example in complying with especially rules meant to regulate pilgrims’ behavior.
He said: ” It would appear bizarre for any official donned with NAHCON or state pilgrim officers’ operational uniforms to contravene hand luggage and other travel protocols.”
Shehu also tasked the group to assert its role as a stakeholder in public policymaking generally.
He added: ”With regards to hajj operations, they should closely monitor and critically study events, define them as problems and insist on prompt authoritative attention.
“This constitutes an important element of their social responsibility and surveillance functions while discharging this function,
” Hajj Reporters should boldly ask punishing questions and demand explanations from officers responsible.
“No unnecessary spinning; no undue image laundering for the malfeasances and ineptitude of stakeholders.
” The image of Nigeria as a nation and the welfare of the guests of Allah are more sacrosanct than the base interests of those found enmeshed in accommodation racketeering, subsidy diversion scandals and poor catering services rendered to the pilgrims. ” (NAN)