Nigeria’s Minister of state, Foreign Affairs, Hon. Khadija Bukar Abba Ibrahim, NAHCON Chairman, Barr Abdullahi Mulhtar Muhammed and Saudi Minister of Hajj and Umrah Dr. Muhammad Saleh bin TaherBenten, Dr Benten during the signing of 2019 hajj MOU.
By Ibrahim Muhammed
The pre election fever of 2019 general election scheduled for 16th February and 2nd March has overshadowed other issues especially in the Media. Political campaign by politicians who are seeking for elective office has dominates public space and effectively makes other subject irrelevant in the minds of average Nigerian at the moment. We live in the age of permanent campaign, election or no election we always remain in full campaign mode.
The Presidential election will hold on 16th February while the closing date for pilgrims’ registration for 2019 hajj is slated for February; at least for now. This coincidence is slowing down pilgrim’s registration processes. Many intending pilgrims are currently engrossed in politicking that the issue of hajj registration became secondary in their minds.
In addition, States Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Boards Executives whose Governors are seeking second term in office will finds it difficult getting timely and needed attention of their Excellencies because of the election heat wave thus causing a delay in the execution of some vital activities geared towards making 2019 hajj a success.
However, NAHCON and States Muslim pilgrims’ welfare boards have been able to sustain the steam by consciously implementing the hajj calendar. Hajj activities are intimately linked to time because 24 hour delay will definitely affects the entire operation.
As part of Preparation towards 2019 hajj, Nigeria’s Minister of state, Foreign Affairs, Hon. Khadija Bukar Abba Ibrahim recently signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on 2019 Hajj with Ministry of Hajj and Umrah in Makkah Saudi Arabia. This effectively defines the policies and direction of 2019 hajj thus allowing NAHCON, States Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Boards and other hajj services providers to begin implementation of their pre hajj activities. In the same vein, NAHCON has sealed agreements with Establishment for African Non-Arabic Speaking Countries and with Muássasah Establishment, General Car Syndicate, Caterers and other hajj service providers.
Secondly, NAHCON had directed State Muslim Pilgrims Boards to commence pilgrims’ registration with a deadline of February 2019. Thereafter, Kaduna, Kano, JIgawa, Lagos, Kwara, Niger, Yobe, Bauchi, Borno, Oyo and other states swing into action and announced the commencement of pilgrims’ registration for 2019 hajj. That deadline is now less than 7 weeks away.
Hajj operation has now been reconfigured in such a way that all arrangements and contractual signings in respects of services to be render to pilgrims are done before the month of Ramadan. This year month of Ramadan will be in first week of May. Most intending pilgrims will likely start thinking of hajj after the general election in March which will be less than 60 days to Ramadan – an indication that many intending pilgrims may be thinking of paying for hajj after Ramadan.
From all indications, Nigeria may record higher number of pilgrim in 2019 than 2018 because politicians who may emerge as winners will sponsor many political foot soldiers as compensation. Farmers and traders constitute the greater percentage of pilgrims in Nigeria. The current political atmosphere is making an average farmer to adopt ‘wait-and-see’ posture, before harvesting his/her farm produce to pay for hajj slot until after election. This likelihood of late surge in pilgrims’ registration will pose a huge operational and reconciliations challenges to NAHCON, States Muslim Pilgrims Boards, Hajj Service Providers and Saudi Arabia Ministry of Hajj.
States Muslim Pilgrims Boards should commence vigorous campaign on the ongoing pilgrims’ registration and harps on the danger of late registration. Such messages should be taken to Juma’at Mosques and market traders union for onward dissemination to their members. Likewise, Islamic organizations like FOWMAN, NASFAT, Ansarudeen, JNI, and others should be incorporated in the ‘Register early for hajj 2019’ campaign. If need be, early pilgrims registration campaign should be taken to political campaign rallies. This should be conducted in a continuous loop. We need to take care of the minutes so that the hours can take care of themselves.
Interestingly, Saudi Arabia aviation authority has fixed 3rd March as deadline for airliners to apply for pilgrims airlift slots. The implication of this policy is that hajj air carriers are supposed to know the number of pilgrims they will be airlifting so as to apply for numbers of corresponding slots. Late registration of pilgrims will therefore affects airliners pre hajj activities. That is where issues of Hajj saving scheme comes to bites. That will be treated in days to come Insha Allah.
BLUE PRINTS NEWSPAPER