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One of the fundamentals of Islam is pilgrimage to Makkah, in Saudi Arabia.  Since the institutionalization of Hajj mankind has not found any other assemblage that equals the assembly of Muslims on mount Arafah and the stay in Mina.  This yearly ritual in the annals of religions defiles human logic. Its spirituality is profound and preparation for the trip dynamic. Persons who perform Hajj and Umrah are guests of Allah and are to be accorded with dignity, treated in a superlative manner and extended befitting courtesies. ‘‘He will grant them their wishes and any prayer that they recite will be expressly accepted. And if they pray for intercession about a person it will be accepted … and if they die in this way Allah will forgive all of their sins”. Hadith.

Going on this journey, to answer the call of the Creator of mankind is methodological and has to conform to the rules and regulations. Aside the spiritual preparations, there are routine preparations that are in the hands of Hajj authorities, both off-shore and on-shore and if not well handled can cause discomfort to these guests of Allah. The seriousness attached to the preparations for the trip and duties performed while on Holy lands, perhaps account for why governments of various nations get involved in the entire process and organizes such under international best practices and international diplomacy. The government of the Late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, in 1955, in the old Western Region of Nigeria started Nigeria’s government involvements till date.

Today, the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria, NAHCON, remains the confluence of Hajj operations in Nigeria. It superintends various states pilgrims’ welfare boards and private operators that freight pilgrims. Hajj operators are expected to be Spartan in conducts considering their roles as shepherds of Allah’s guests, live above boards and saintly in approach, but often some of the coordinating officials (Private and Government) turn Hajj operations to cash-cow and outright stealing from the guests of Allah.

Tales of woes and outright reap off of guests of Allah are common phenomenon during Hajj operations. The catalogues of inappropriate conducts by officials of the operators are intimidating and these cut across the divide. However, allegations of impropriety against NAHCON, resonates particularly the wrist-band malady, inflated Hajj fares, extortions of the private operators, double taxation, and high handedness on its part. A cursory look at NAHCON activities, suggests Hajj operations in Nigeria need surgical operations to correct the maladies.

At this juncture, this is where we welcome heartily Zikrullah kunle Hassan Esq. the new chairman of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria; NAHCON in the manner the Greeks would welcome a distinguished personality by using their heartfelt word for welcome Parakalό to welcome him to office. Sir, Parakalό you are welcome. You and your board members are being welcome to furnace of challenges and to clean the Augean-stable as expected by many considering your pedigree and antecedents in Islamic works that span four decades.

You are welcome, to look into the welfare of pilgrims, operators and staff of NAHCON. You are welcome, to find ways to lower Hajj fares through diplomatic channels, stop exploitation of pilgrims, ensure pilgrims spend lesser days away from the six weeks’ window, ensure International pilgrim’s operators are giving a plain level playing field for their business; currently it is skewed to discomfort their operations and invariably affect their pilgrims.

We also welcome you to see this new position as the greatest gift, the best honour and one of the highest offices, you occupies  in recent times which must propel you and other board members to do the utmost best, to always make the welfare and comfort of guests of Allah paramount in your administration. The rewards await you on the Day of Qiyamah.-Parakalό.

by Abdussalam Abdulfattah

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