The National Tawafa Establishment for Pilgrims of African Non-Arab Countries has congratulated the new Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), Mr Jalal Ahmad Arabi, on his appointment.
The congratulatory message, signed by the Chairman of Board of Directors of the establishment, Dr Ahmad Abbas Sandi, was posted on the establishment’s official X handle on Friday.
The Saudi hajj establishment sought Mr Arabi’s cooperation in “renewing the strong historical relationship in providing the best distinguished services” to Nigerian pilgrims.
Mr Arabi, a lawyer, seasoned bureaucrat and former permanent secretary, was appointed on Tuesday by President Bola Tinubu after the sack of Mr Zikirullah Kunle Hassan and the dissolution of his board.
There was jubilation and fanfare at the NAHCON headquarters on Wednesday as ecstatic staff trooped out to receive Mr Arabi. There was thunderous chanting of “Allahu Akbar”— Allah is the greatest, when the staff saw that it was former NAHCON Chairman Abdullahi Mukhtar Muhammad, who drove Mr Arabi into the commission. A cross section of the staff told this newspaper that it was the first time Mr Mukhtar would step into the premises of the commission since he left as chairman about four years ago.
Speaking after he resumed office on Wednesday, Mr Arabi promised to work with both local and international stakeholders in redeeming the glory of the hajj and umrah industry, as well as ensuring the provision of excellent services to Nigerian pilgrims.
The Saudi hajj establishment congratulatory message which was originally in Arabic reads, “The Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Mutawafi Company for Pilgrims of Non-Arab African Countries, Dr. Ahmed Abbas Sindi and all members of the Council extend their sincere congratulations and blessings to His Excellency Mr. Jalal Ahmed Arabi on the occasion of his appointment as Chairman and CEO of the National Hajj Committee of the Republic of Nigeria for a period of four years. We wish His Excellency success and success, and renewing the strong historical relationship in providing the best distinguished services to our partners, the distinguished pilgrims of the State of Nigeria.”
This newspaper gathered that other stakeholders in the hajj and umrah ecosystem in Saudi Arabia that include caterers, accommodation providers, car syndicates, among others, have been celebrating Mr Arabi’s appointment and the exit of the former chairman.
However, some of the Saudi-based stakeholders, have cautioned the new NAHCON chief to “avoid the banana peels that swept away the Zikirullah’s-led board.” They urged Mr Arabi to be steadfast and transparent in executing his duties, and “more importantly refrain from the mistakes that marred Mr Zikirullah’s leadership.”
It was gathered that the optimism expressed over Mr Arabi’s appointment by the Saudi stakeholders and local staff was not unconnected with the ugly incidents of 2023 hajj which led to the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah to query NAHCON four times for fundamental violations of Saudi hajj regulations in terms of pilgrims welfare, particularly regarding Nigerian pilgrims feeding and accommodation in Madinah.
On his part, a former Executive Secretary of Kano State Pilgrims Welfare Board, Muhammad Abba Danbatta, in a statement on Friday, felicitated with Mr Arabi, saying his appointment was timely and came at a time the hajj industry was on abyss.
Mr Danbatta urged the new NAHCON chief to avoid the mistakes made by the Zikirullah, which caused untold hardship to Nigerian pilgrims.
It could be recalled that during Mr Danbatta’s tenure in 2022, NAHCON under Mr Zikirullah had failed to airlift over 700 intended pilgrims from Kano to Saudi Arabia.
Receiving the operation report of the 2022 Hajj operation from the Kano State Pilgrims Welfare Board, the then Governor Abdullahi Ganduje had accused Mr Zikirullah’s hajj commission of gross misconduct and mismanagement of resources that led to said the 2022 fiasco.
According to Mr Ganduje, the 2022 hajj was the worst ever witnessed in the last seven years, calling for an immediate probe of NAHCON.
Mr Ganduje urged the federal government and the National Assembly to investigate the operation of NAHCON with special reference to the 2022 Hajj to save the nation from needless national embarrassment in the future.
Despite Mr Ganduje’s appeal in 2022, Mr Zikirullah again superintended a hajj in 2023 that was adjudged to be the worse in recent history.