By Ahmad Tijjani Abdul Kano
A civil society group, Independent Hajj Reporters has appealed to the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) and the Private Hajj Operators to adopt a common ground over the ongoing disagreement over list of approved tour operators.
IHR in a statement signed by its national coordinator, Ibrahim Muhammad on Monday that was made available to Daily INDEPENDENT noted that the two critical stakeholders are key to the success of the exercise.
“It will be recalled that NAHCON had released a list of 110 Private Hajj operators screened by the commission for participation in 2024 Hajj. Prior to this, Saudi Arabia has directed all hajj participating countries to reduce the number of Private hajj operators to 10.
“The Saudis later reviewed the number to 40 for Nigeria. NAHCON was compelled to introduce new criteria to trim the 110 companies to 40 with a view to allow others to merge with the approved 40 companies whose names will be forwarded to Saudi Arabia,” the CSO said.
IHR also said some tour operators whose names are on the initial list of 110 released by NAHCON are alleging favouritism – saying some companies among the 40 listed by NAHCON are not qualified for such considerations.
This unproven allegation infuriated NAHCON which later suspended allocating Hajj slots to private tour operators and halted their activities altogether.
In a statement shared by the commission, NAHCON said “in commitment to transparency and integrity, NAHCON has decided to suspend further activities related to the allocation of Hajj seats to the PTOs for the next 48 hours. This decision comes in light of recent accusations leveled by some PTOs unable to meet the required pass mark. The Commission is fully aware that there may be dissenting voices which have expectedly begun to manifest”.
While we understand the importance of regulatory oversight and compliance as undertaken by NAHCON, we also believe that it is not right for the commission to have publicly suspended the pre hajj activities and allocation of hajj slots to the 40 Tour Operators irrespective of allegations made by some Tour Operators because doing so amounts to ‘admitting’ error of judgement in the lists especially given the extremely tight schedules in the 2024 hajj calendar.
Those who made the allegations could have been isolated and their allocation withheld while allowing others to continue with their 2024 Hajj activities.
Tour Operators are allocated 20,000 pilgrims while States Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Boards share 75,000 seats. Currently, states are yet to register up to 25,000 pilgrims. Freezing the process of early registering of possible additional 15,000 to 20,000 pilgrims to boost the numbers of 2024 intending pilgrims may not be ideal at this time.