A Saudi Arabian top hajj chief and the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the National Tawafa Establishment for Pilgrims of African Non-Arab Countries, Dr Ahmad Abbas Sandi, has arrived Nigeria in a first ever visit.
Sources at the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) told 21st CENTURY CHRONICLE that the pilgrims chief arrived the country Saturday morning.
The visit, the first of its kind, is related to the kingdom’s desire to revive their historical ties with Nigeria that waned in the last four years.
The Mu’assasah had earlier written a congratulatory letter to the new NAHCON Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Mr Jalal Ahmad Arabi, on his appointment.
Dr Sandi, who personally signed the congratulatory message, said the
Saudi hajj establishment was seeking Mr Arabi’s cooperation in “renewing the strong historical relationship in providing the best distinguished services” to Nigerian pilgrims.
Mr Arabi was appointed recently by President Bola Tinubu after the sack of Mr Zikirullah Kunle Hassan and his board.
There are no specifics on the actual reasons for Dr Sandi’s visit, but sources said it may be connected to the Saudi Arabian effort in reviving the decades-long ties that existed between the two countries, but “dipped in the past few years due to leadership deficiency at the commission,” an top official of the hajj commission said.
He added that “The Saudis are hoping that the new chairman, due to his antecedents, will right all the wrongs done by his immediate predecessor and bring back Nigeria to its rightful position in the hajj global map.”
Another official said, “this sentiment is behind the visit by the Mu’assasah chairman. It is the first ever visit to Nigeria. That shows how serious the Saudi authorities take Mr ArabI’s new leadership.”
Some officials of the state pilgrims boards and private tour operators were optimistic that the historic visit will improve the standing of Nigeria and its pilgrims in Saudi Arabia.
“The Saudis are proactive. They realized that the new chairman is serious that is why the head of the Mu’assasah is coming here. The visit portends good omen for Nigerian pilgrims,” a tour operator Muhammad Sani Rabiu, told our reporter.
A director of operations in one of the Northwest states’ pilgrims board, who spoke on the visit but declined being named because he didn’t have authorization, said “the visit will open a new page for Nigerian hajj operations. The Saudis are happy with the new change at NAHCON. Even Saudis were worried with the deteriorating leadership at the commission in the last two hajj. So, Mr Jalal Arabi’s coming has giving them confidence. That is why a high-level pilgrims chief had to come down and reinforce that confidence for the betterment of everyone.”