A civil society organisation, Independent Hajj Reporters (IHR), has called on the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) to convene a stakeholders meeting to discuss the way forward following the decision of Saudi Arabia to limit participation in this year’s hajj in the kingdom.
In a statement signed by its national coordinator, Ibrahim Mohammed, the IHR also urged NAHCON to direct state Muslim pilgrims welfare boards to commence the process of returning deposits made by intending pilgrims to those who might not wish to take their registration forward for hajj next year.
The group noted that the meeting expected to be convened by NAHCON would be held in line with protocols set by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
It suggested that the meeting should involve all hajj stakeholders, including airlines, the Nigerian Immigration Service, Nigeria Customs Service, the Ulama, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), hajj technocrats, private tour operators, the Saudi Arabian embassy in Nigeria, civil society organisations and financial institutions.
“NAHCON should also put machinery in motion to educate Hajj 2020 intending pilgrims on the need for them to defer their pilgrimage to 2021 in order to lessen the burden of going through cancelling and re-registration,” the statement said.
The organisation said it acknowledged the challenges faced by private hajj companies in view of the fact that most of them had made financial commitments to Saudi Arabian-based hajj service providers and might not have the financial power to effect full refunds to their prospective pilgrims.
IHR also advised NAHCON to carry out wide consultations on how to assist the registered private tour operators in overcoming the operational challenges brought about by the banning of international pilgrims from participating in hajj this year.
It said countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, Britain, South Africa, and Singapore had “rightly” read the handwriting on the wall and taken the “painful but necessary” decision of opting out of Hajj 2020 before Saudi Arabia announced its decision.
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