By Abubakar Muhammad
Bala Ibn Na’Allah, Deputy Senate Leader of the Nigerian Senate has chided Nigerian media on the need to exhibit patriotism in their coverage of Hajj exercise.
He made the call at the public presentation of Independent Hajj Reporters (IHR) news website and awards ceremony in Abuja.
The senator, who served as chairman of the occasion, noted that although there was a remarkable improvement in the management of Nigeria Hajj operation by the current leadership of the National Hajj Commission, NAHCON, the website should criticise where necessary.
He noted that ,there was a lot of deliberate misinformation that was reported in the media on Hajj exercise which according to him, the website is expected to correct to set a pace for other media organizations.
While commending IHR’s initiative, Mr. Na’Allah called on the management of NAHCON, media practitioners and other stakeholders in Hajj operation to support IHR initiative.
Mr. Na’Allah had contributed to the enactment of the Act establishing NAHCON while he was a member of the House of Representative.
” NAHCON should continue to remain focused despite numerous challenges of misinformation , your efforts and that of IHR and other stakeholders will be rewarding even in the hereafter,” he added.
In his remarks, Abdullahi Mukhtar, the Executive Chairman, of NAHCON decried the current situation whereby journalists who are sponsored by various State Muslim Pilgrims’ Welfare Boards and Agencies sometimes work at cross purposes.
He said the commission intends to select journalists that would report Hajj and train them on the intricacies of covering the religious rites.
“The commission will accredit journalists covering annual pilgrimages to Saudi Arabia to sanitise Hajj reporting.
“If FIFA has to accredit journalists that report the World Cup, it is absolutely necessary for the commission to accredit journalists that should cover Hajj,’’ he said.
The chairman observed that there were complains that many reports endanger the diplomatic relations between Nigeria and Saudi Arabia which some journalists may not be aware of.
Mr. Mukhtar advised journalists deployed for exercise to report strictly on Hajj matters if they go to the Holy land and should desist from reporting issues that have diplomatic implications.
He commended IHR for pioneering the first website in the world that is dedicated to Hajj and Umrah, hoping that the news portal would provide credible information that would counter misinformation about pilgrimage.
The chairman also advised the organisation to open its doors to external ideas.
“Although you are the initiators of the news platform but ideas can come from anywhere. Don’t claim ownership of the website because it is for the Muslim Ummah at large.
“A lot of the misinformation on Hajj is concocted from the politics of hajj. I enjoined IHR not to delve into this politics and economics of Hajj affairs, but stick strictly on Hajj management,” he said
He called on the Muslims to assist IHR financially and materially to succeed.
“IHR deserves financial and material support as well as support in terms of ideas from Muslims,’’ he added.
Ibrahim Muhammad, the National Coordinator, IHR, said that the decision to set up www.hajjreporters.com arose from the need to create a platform that would aggregate all important Hajj-related information that would serve as a knowledge-sharing platform for all stakeholders.
“The event is not just to launch the website but to appreciate those who contributed to the rise of Hajj administration,” he added.
Ahmed Daku, a retired colonel and former Governor of Kano State, Muhammad Bello Federal Capital Territory Minister , Saidu Barda, first civilian governor of Katsina State; were given Life Time awards for their contributions to Hajj affairs.
The Lagos State Muslim Pilgrims’ Welfare Board got the overall prize amongst State Pilgrim Boards, while Kaduna State got the award for the best in enlightenment and mobilisation.
Kashim Shettima Governor of Borno State, who bagged a Special Recognition award for his commitment to Hajj in spite of the security challenges in Borno, donated N2 million to IHR.
Ibrahim Muhammad, the National Coordinator, Independent Hajj Reporters (IHR) presenting his address at the public presentation of the IHRs news website and awards ceremony in Abuja