The Chief Executive Officer of Al Kaothara AbdulSalam Company Ltd, a Saudi based service provider for Hajj and Umrah pilgrims as well as a Tour Operator in Nigeria, Alhaji AbdulWaheed AbdulRaheem has applauded the Lagos State governor, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode for his continued support to pilgrims from the state in Saudi Arabia.
He said Lagos state has over the years shown capacity to deliver a robust hajj operation through quality services to pilgrims.
He noted that, that was the reason why the state will continue to excel among others in the management of the annual Holy Pilgrimage.
He also commended the state Amir-ul-Hajj and Commissioner of Home Affairs, Dr. AbdulHakeem AbdulLateef for his leadership roles in the holy land.
Abdur-Raheem who is also known as Alarafa in a chat with Vanguard in his Ikeja office stated that, the private operator in Nigeria have also helped in their various ways to make the hajj rites easy through good guardianship, mentoring and services. He noted that late payment might continue to be the bane of hajj operations in Nigeria as many intending pilgrims struggle to complete their hajj fees after Ramadan.
“It has been the culture of many Nigerians on late payment. It may not be their fault because, many had to struggle to complete the money when the registration exercise had lapsed.
“It is also in our culture that our preparation of Hajj are heightened only after Ramadan, but in some other countries, in fact, Hajj preparation by intending pilgrims start immediately one misses the last one,” he said.
He noted that the fee for the last hajj would have been more than what it was but for the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), whose ingenuity in cutting down some expenses and negotiating downward the cost of some services without losing the quality rendered did the magic.
On other services provided by his company, Alarafa said: “I am passionate about providing better services for Nigerians in Saudi Arabia because the Saudi government have too much to contend with and may not be able to serve all pilgrims with their local food. So, I want my people to be fed their indigenous food.
“The stress of getting food in Muna and Arafat is usually much. If they don’t eat good food, it could expose them to risk of illness and with the stress of hajj, it may not be a pleasant story,” he stated.
Alarafa who is married to a Saudi woman said his sojourn in the holy land spanning over three decades has given him wide experience about how factors that can bring about hitches during hajj and Umrah pilgrimage can be curtailed.
“We also have Al-Kaothara travels and tours which specifically operates from Nigeria, aiding and assisting pilgrims from home to actualise the dream of performing the holy pilgrimage.
“Just like there are choices of food, (both continental and indigenous food) for pilgrims to make the pilgrims feel at home and enjoy every little time of their spiritual activities, there are also cadres of hotels and accommodation depending on theor choice. These are two, three, four and five stars hotel accommodation withing the precinct of Haram,” he said.
Alarafa also stated that although there were challenges about the provision of these facilities this year, adding that these challenges were caused as a result of late ticketing from home authorities.
He disclosed that his Tour Operator company will soon begin a payment plan which will enable intending pilgrims to actualise their dream and benefit from the money he saves for hajj. According to him: “We are learning a model from Malaysia and we will send our staff there for training. When they return, we will start the payment plan, but it will benefit the intending pilgrims a lot.
“The model is quite different from the type of payment adopted by many operators here in Nigeria””,” he said.