By Fatima Sanda Usara
The screening and inspection of Service Providers’ documents and facilities in Saudi Arabia is ongoing. It would interest the public to know that the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah had instructed Nigeria, and other participating countries too, to enter contract agreement with selected services providers responsible for accommodation, catering, and transportation, latest by 15th of Shawwal 1443 equivalent to 16th May 2022.
In the light of the above, the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria, NAHCON, placed regulatory advertisement in Saudi Arabian newspaper calling for expression of interest in these fields with a deadline for submission that expired 30th April 2022.
Screening criteria for eligibility to be engaged in catering services include current partnership arrangement with a Nigerian caterer(s), experience in feeding of Nigerian pilgrims, five years’ experience in the feeding field, proximity of kitchen to pilgrims’ accommodation, staff capacity, industrial facilities available, mobility, tax clearance etc.
Accommodation screening revolves around capacity of building, duly licensed building with tax clearance and in conformity with Saudi Arabian standards, distance from the Haram, well equipped dining area, adequate elevator facilities, and more.
Alhaji Usman Aliyu Shamaki, NAHCON’s Director Inspectorate and Compliance is chairman of the screening committee. He assured management that his team will expedite action in order to conclude the assignment in time for final submission to the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah. Other members from NAHCON include Deputy Director States and Zones, Alidu Shutti, Deputy Director Special Duties, Bashir Jazuli, Assistant Director Research and Statistics Dalhatu Isa among others. The States’ Pilgrims’ Welfare Boards’ are represented by Executive Secretaries (ES) from Adamawa, ES Plateau, Chairman Zamfara, Chairman Lagos pilgrims’ board and its Board Secretary. Also, among the screening committee members is representative of Nigerian Consulate in Jeddah.
In another development, NAHCON, in its role as regulator, coordinator, and supervisor of Hajj and Umrah matters, embarked on Ramadan Umrah monitoring both from Nigeria and in Saudi Arabia. During the exercise, data were gathered on performance of Tour Operators with complaints compiled where necessary.
In the course of their assignment, NAHCON Umrah monitoring team traversed the cities of Makkah and Madinah scouting for stranded pilgrims needing assistance. The team successfully identified some Tour Operators who accordingly discharged their duties to their clients instantly. However, for those Tour Operators that could not be reached, NAHCON staff on ground liaised with the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah who provided phone numbers to call for intervention. Hence, in a collaborative arrangement with NAHCON’s team, the Ministry’s personnel booked accommodation for these category of pilgrims by deducting from the operator’s Bank Guarantees with the Ministry for the purpose of settling the pilgrims. Penalties will follow these violations.
Consequently, legitimate complaints are invited from dissatisfied pilgrims as well as Tour Operators with valid contract papers signed between the two parties. This will aid NAHCON in adjudicating in the matters.
In another vein, the NAHCON Umrah Monitoring Team chairman, Director Usman Aliyu Shamaki, hereby draws the attention of Nigerian pilgrims in Saudi Arabia to the over-crowdedness being witnessed in the King AbdulAziz International Airport, Jeddah. The team chairman humbly advises Nigerian pilgrims to patiently await their Tour Operators to transport them to Jeddah airport for their departure to Nigeria when their flights are on ground. According to reports, pilgrims have thronged the Jeddah airport in desperation to return to their countries even when their aircraft are not on ground. To curtail further congestion at the airports, Alhaji Shamaki solicits Nigerian pilgrims to remain in their locations to avoid embarrassment, inconveniences, and possible penalties. Any Tour Agency that transports pilgrims to Jeddah airport for over 12 hours before take-off should be reported to NAHCON through any of these numbers please: +2348034458299, +2348074160299, or +2348036509128.
On a final note, the NAHCON leadership had observed with dismay the unfortunate trend where politicians displayed posters of their candidates in the grand mosque in Makkah. Kindly recall that the Saudi Arabian authorities are very strict on any form of politicking while in their land. Especially not in the Holy Ka’aba where devotees engage in solemn prayers. This action is tantamount to desecration of a religious sanctuary which attracts penalties when apprehended. Hence, in the interest of the actors and Nigeria’s image, pilgrims are cautioned to desist from such illegal activities please.
Usara, is AD, Public Affairs, NAHCON