During the 2015 post Hajj activities organised by the National Hajj Commission (NAHCON), the debate on the desirability or otherwise of structuring the Nigeria Hajj management body similar to that of Tambug Hajj (Malaysian Hajj body) for effective management of Hajj exercises in Nigeria was activated. It is a call borne out of the desire of having a consistent and effective Hajj administrative body capable of planning well ahead and be able to meet with challenges of modern Hajj management.
Historically, the Pilgrims Management Fund Board of Malaysia, popularly known as Tabung Hajji was established in 1969 under the laws of Malaysia. Its purpose is to provide an appropriate Islamic means of mobilising, saving gradually and investing them in economic activities in conformity with the Shari’ah, thereby assisting the Muslims to perform the pilgrimage in Makkah at the least possible cost. Presently, it is rated as the best Hajj service providers in the world.
The template for the 2016 Hajj exercise, proposed by NAHCON during the 2015 post Hajj activities, if well implemented, will create a template for successful Hajj operation devoid of any operational hiccups, and save government from the pressure of having to subsidise Hajj operation. Like the Malaysian Tabung Hajj, which derives its concept from saving scheme, the NAHCON Establishment Act 2006, provides room for Hajj saving scheme.
Section 7 (1) of NAHCON Establishment Act 2016 states: “The Commission shall establish, supervise and regulate a system of Hajj saving scheme to be operated by the states Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Board and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) for interested intending Pilgrims. If the above provision in the Act is fully implemented, the Tabung hajj model can be said to be in the pipe line for implementation.
However, it is my hope that the present Commission will sustain and consolidate on the achievements recorded during the 2015 Hajj exercise. For example , there was an increase in the percentage of direct landing of Nigerian pilgrims at Madinah international airport; increase in the percentage of Nigerian pilgrims who visited Madinah; remarkable improvement in pilgrims’ accommodation with over 10,000 pilgrims accommodated in a 5-star hotel close to the Prophet’s mosque; abolishment of VIP treatment; implementation of full feeding programme for pilgrims in Makkah, Madinah, Mina, Arafat and at the airports; the new project of performing the hadiy by Nigerian pilgrims through the Jaiz Bank, and the drastic reduction in consular and security related issues. The above highlighted achievements need consolidation and the only way to achieve that is to have a consistent policy in Hajj exercise.
Though, NAHCON might have got it right in terms of policies, and to some extent implementations, the Commission needs to work on its human resources sector. Presently, over 70% of Hajj operation staffers are adhoc. This has crippled its efficiency of strictly enforcing discipline and supervision. The Malaysian Tabung Hajj operates with its employed staffers. One of its officials confessed that he had never performed Hajj, despite the fact that he has been to Saudi Arabia for 11 years, in the service of the Tabung Hajj. This is unlike the Nigerian Hajj officials who take issues of service delivery as secondary. Indonesia, Pakistan, Iran and Malaysia Hajj officials consider service to pilgrims as their primary assignment. Hajj officials should be made to sign an undertaking because they are being paid and transported to Saudi Arabia for the purpose of service to the pilgrims.
Additionally, early preparation and ability to adapt to changes in the middle of operation are very important. For example, nobody envisaged the twin calamities of crane crash and stampede during the 2015 Hajj exercise. Yet, the Commission commendably adapted and managed the situation without allowing unbearable pressure to derail other vital aspects of the operation.
Furthermore, the Commission needs to fast track the implementation of its policies. Issue like, e-Track system, pilgrims enlightment, reconfiguration of the health service delivery guidelines and early contractual engagement with all Hajj service delivery. This will allow Hajj service providers to have enough time to prepare for the exercise. Though, the Commission has commenced most of the steps identified above, it needs to advice states pilgrims welfare boards to do same.
Finally, I think it is necessary for the Commission to begin to put machinery in motion in realisation of most of the resolution adopted during the post Hajj activities. This will ensure a consolidation to last year’s achievements – an effort acknowledged by all during the last post Hajj activities.
—Usman wrote in from Zaria, Kaduna State