By Ahmad Tijjani Abdul Kano
A civil society group, Independent Hajj Reporters, on Tuesday advised the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) and State Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Boards and Agencies (SMPWBAs) to sign of long-term contracts with Saudi Arabia based hajj services providers to cut the rising cost of hajj occasioned by the high foreign exchange rate.
A press statement signed by Ibrahim Mohammed, the national coordinator of the faith based organisation which was made available to Daily INDEPENDENT explained that the steps would create room for effective coordination and impactful supervision by both the commission and the States.
Ibrahim Mohammed stressed that “Liaising with over 20 or more service providers during hajj creates multiple operational challenges for the apex hajj regulatory body and inhibits the smooth process of systematisation”.
IHR also said Hajj services to Nigerian pilgrims like accommodation, feeding and Car syndicates should have some elements of uniformity and standard across the board.
The statement reads in parts “For example, one or two accommodation and catering service providers can serve the entire Northern pilgrims given that they share common culture and traditions, especially in the areas of menu and tastes.
“One or two others can provide similar service for southern pilgrims using the same parameters”.
It added that “countries with a higher number of pilgrims such as Indonesia, Bangladesh and India utilised fewer service providers and it is the reason why they have efficient crises management control system during hajj operations”.
IHR also said the yearly signing of contractual agreements with Hajj service providers is no longer tenable given the new Hajj calendar issued by the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah.
“The new Hajj calendar has shortened the pre-hajj preparation period thereby giving hajj participating countries little or no time to be travelling twice or more to negotiate for yearly hajj services with service providers.
“More importantly, signing long-term agreements with service providers such as accommodation, catering and car syndicate providers will create stability in hajj fare templates and also allow such service providers to map out long-term planning which will result in efficient service delivery to Nigerian pilgrims.