By Fatima Sanda Usara

In continuation with activities of NAHCON’s first Pre-Hajj visit, National Hajj Commission of Nigeria’s team carried out a tripartite meeting on 13th of December 2018. The team first met with the President of General Car Syndicates, the agency in charge of pilgrims’ transportation throughout Hajj season., Abdulrahman bin Mayouf AlHarbi.

Meeting With General Car Syndicate:

Mr. AlHarbi, at the meeting, made clarifications over allegations that Nigerian pilgrims are being over-charged on transport fares compared to those from other countries. He expressed surprise on how this could be possible seeing that the charges are officially determined, government controlled as well as a matter of policy with payment made within financial regulations and transparently.

On current contract for pilgrims’ conveyance during 2019 Hajj, the President disclosed that because government had rolled out a comprehensive social safety transport system henceforth, it mandated all transport companies to provide new buses not more than 10 years old. This policy therefore jerked up the cost of transportation, which had remained the same in the past 30 years. NAHCON’s Chairman, Barrister Abdullah Mukhtar Muhammad made a plea for this increase to be shelved aside this year due to general economic downturn all over the world. Besides, he argued, procurement of these vehicles is a long-term investment whose proceeds should be reaped gradually. However, his counterpart in the GCS declared that it is a decision solely under the purview of Ministry of Hajj and Umrah.

The GCS President expressed satisfaction with the Commission, proclaiming that NAHCON has been one of the best in the last three years and has remained a role model to other countries. Agreements for basic transport services were signed.

NAHCON Chairman and GCS President Signing Contract Papers

At the Hafil Transportation Company:

Meanwhile, at another meeting with Nigeria’s transport agents in Saudi Arabia, the Hafil Transportation Company, its General Director, Professor Dr. Khaled M.S. Jamel Al-layl reiterated on the imminent increase in transport fares arising from the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah’s directive on provision of new buses for pilgrims. NAHCON’s delegation at the meeting that was led by Commissioner Policy Personnel Management and Finance (PPMF), Dr. Adebayo Yusuf Ibrahim, similarly called for delay of this increase this year so as to ease cost of Hajj fare. The request was met with the same response as that of the GCS’s President; only the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has the mandate to decide that.

At the Contractual Negotiation Table with Hafil

Establishment for African Non-Arabic Speaking Countries

The meeting between NAHCON and Mu’assasa (Establishment for African Non-Arabic Speaking Countries) in Jedda climaxed the day’s engagements. Highlights from this third and final meeting of the day were colossal. Information was gathered by the team that tawaf (circumambulation of the Ka’aba) will be regulated in a similar way that Jam’ rat stoning is. Reason for this is crowd control.

Pre Agreement Discussion with Muássasah Establishment

Discussions Concluded with Muássasah

The second revelation is that tough penalties await over-stayers after Hajj or Umrah and their collaborators. NAHCON laid out its plans on this bedeviling issue and was supported by the Establishment pledging to offer the Commission all necessary backing in doing so. Both sides agreed to introduce collaborative measures that will bring visa/immigration violation to an end. Representative of Nigeria’s Licensed Tour Operators also queued into this arrangement assuring that their organization will not tolerate any member trying to soil their name and business.

NAHCON made a demand for pilgrims’ accommodation at Masha’ir (holy sites) particularly Arafat, to be equipped with air conditioners instead of dessert coolers. The request was put under consideration.

On a general note, the National Hajj Commission was well commended for the 2018 Hajj which all the Hajj organizers, so far met, agreed was one of the best in recent years. To cap the day’s meetings, the manager in charge of the Jamrat operations under Mu’assasa, Abdallah Lashkuri proclaimed simply and unequivocally about the NAHCON helmsman, “Mr. Abd’Allah is the enemy of the devil”.

Relevant papers on terms and conditions were signed legally binding the two sides in a contractual agreement.

Usara reports from Makkah, Saudi Arabia