NAHCON Settles with Adillah Establishment in Madinah
The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) has successfully retained its previous year’s hotel accommodation in Markaziyya District of Madinah. This attainment was possible due to the early expression of interest by the Commission, because accommodation in this area are limited and in high demand, thus reserved on the basis of first to come, first to be served.
In a meeting with Adillah Establishment in Madinah, which is the regulatory umbrella of a conglomerate of service providers in Madinah, its Chairman made few observations after acknowledging NAHCON’s continuous cooperation in making its task easy. He reaffirmed it on record that NAHCON staff on ground in Madinah did exceptionally well in their assignments, to the delight of the Adillah.
While, praying for the continued success of NAHCON management, Vice Chairman of the Adillah, Uztaz Usam Diyadi, hopes the two parties will continue to enjoy this cordial working relationship for long.
Meanwhile, one of the complaints made by the Adillah Establishment is that some Licensed Tour Operators do not give them adequate time notification for release of pilgrims’ passports to enable the operators to transport their pilgrims to the next destination. He reflected that all Hajj/Umrah transactions are turning electronic and a minimum of 24 hours is the regulated time for release of passport. He frowned at the manner in which some pilgrims would be assembled, loitering outside their hotels while waiting for arrival of their passports, which is unacceptable to the Kingdom. He said the Establishment takes directives from Ministry of Hajj and Umrah which in turn takes its orders from King Salman Ibn AbdulAzeez, the Custodian of the two holy mosques. He therefore appealed to the Commission to address this issue.
On his part, NAHCON Chief Executive Officer, commended the performance of Adillah. He harped on security challenges faced by some pilgrims. And the need to regulate companies involved in fixing golden teeth so that those willing to patronize their services would be guided in making choices.

Adillah Establishment Office in Madinah

Meeting with United Agents in Jeddah:
Purpose of the invitation, according to Chairman of the United Agents (UA), Mr. Faruq Yahaya Buhari, is to review last year’s Hajj exercise with the purpose of finding solutions to them. Another purpose of the meeting is to introduce new procedures as ordered by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah. And for both parties to work out modalities towards adjusting to the new reforms conveniently. The U.A Chairman commended the understanding between NAHCON staff and his men, an alignment that is making coordination of pilgrims ‘ movement easy. He opined that Nigerian Hajj mission “…moved from the most difficult to deal with in the last ten years to become the easiest mission to work with today.”

The Chairman of NAHCON, Barrister Abdullahi Mukhtar Muhammad, acknowledged his appreciation and that of the people of Nigeria over the warm reception accorded to Nigerian pilgrims. He thereafter made few demands.
Firstly, he re-echoed a request that was tabled by the Commission in the previous year for Nigerians legally resident in the Kingdom to be employed by the U.A as part of the workforce serving Nigerian pilgrims. The advantage in doing this is ease of communication between the pilgrims and the Arab-speaking agents, in addition is the extra funds these Nigerians will make under this plan. These legal residents have an identifiable umbrella through which they can be located.

Mr. Faruq Buhari responded that the U. A has no objection to this request as long as the Commission can vouch for the people to be employed. However, he warned that anyone that will be involved must have the temperament to be patient with pilgrims and to also be cautious of tardiness. This is because a few minutes delay in the timetable could lead to disruption of flight schedules of other countries. Hence, NAHCON must take note of this.

In another vein, the U.A Chairman elaborated on the earlier reported ‘Makkah Road Project’ designed to hasten immigration screening and to reduce congestion experienced in Saudi airports. He explained that Saudi immigration personnel shall temporarily relocate to departure centers of countries signatory to this agreement to conduct the pre arrival screening. All passengers successfully screened are expected to travel together in a uniformed attire, the same aircraft, arrive the same time and be moved in the same buses to the same accommodation facility. In view of this, the United Agents sought for maximum support to make this new method as smooth and quick as possible. Similarly, their luggage should be of same color code for easy identification so that they will be ferried right up to their lodging reservations without mix-ups. And where two states must travel in the same plane, they must be in different colors for their separate dispatching.
Also introduced for 2019 Hajj are train services to Madinah, especially for Licensed Tour Operators’ pilgrims who arrive the Kingdom late, at a time when buses are scarce. For this, any such pilgrim who arrives the Kingdom by 25th /26th of Dhul Qa’ada has the option of traveling to Madinah by electric rail and be received at the arrival station by agents who will take them to their Hotel reservations. Any operator interested in this arrangement is urged to indicate interest accordingly.

At the United Agents negotiation table

Verification Exercise for Pilgrims’ Accommodation and Catering Services in Makkah and Madinah
Among other activities carried out by NAHCON in the first Pre-Hajj visit is Verification of Pilgrims’ Accommodation and Catering Services in Makkah and Madinah. Following advertisements placed in Saudi Arabian newspapers inviting interested and qualified organizations to apply for inclusion as service providers, a total of 128 applications were received. Those returned include 75 for Makkah catering and 38 for accommodation. In Madinah, 14 are for catering while six were returned for accommodation. It would be recalled that introduction of verification and screening exercise helped NAHCON in eliminating unqualified companies from providing services to Nigerian pilgrims and promoted a culture of competition from the best hands. In addition, it ensured that pilgrims get value for money from all service providers. Some members from state pilgrims welfare boards formed part of the verification exercise team.

Meeting with State Pilgrims’ Boards Executives:
State Chief Executives were briefed on general outcomes of the various meetings held in preparation for 2019 Hajj exercise. In particular, the Commission drew their attention to newly introduced regulations correlating to time consciousness. Two of such are early booking of airlift slots and advance passenger information, which, General Authority for Civil Aviation (GACA), requests latest by 30th of March 2019. Therefore, to avoid delays and mix-ups, need for early completion of pilgrims’ registration was reemphasized, notwithstanding any number of pilgrims that might have registered by then.
NAHCON team in a meeting with GACA officials

The Commission also reminded state Chief Executives of some of the losses incurred during the previous airlift exercise where some flights took off with many empty seats because pilgrims were not fully prepared. This in turn affected the return journeys.
The Establishment of Mutawwifs for pilgrims from African non-Arab Countries also made a presentation during the said meeting. The presentation was to address the challenges faced in 2018 as a result of inaccurate input of pilgrims accommodation data. Be informed that the new e-track registration requires full names of pilgrims and their lodging information in securing their visas. A mixup in entering these details on the e-portal caused numerous problems that resulted in delays in pilgrims being allocated accommodation on arrival in Makkah.
NAHCON Chairman concluded his address at the meeting with a call on all participants to be mindful of the trust between all Hajj handlers and pilgrims. They were also admonished not to compromise quality while inspecting possible accommodation and other facility choices.

Present at the meeting with state Chief Executives of pilgrims’ welfare boards was Senator Monsurat Sonmonu and some members of the Senate and House Committees on Foreign Affairs.

Fatima Sanda Usara,
Head, Public Affairs Division’