The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) says intending pilgrims for the 2017 pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia will not be charged standardized transport fare.
The Executive Chairman of NAHCON, Alhaji Abdullahi Mohammad, told our reporter in Abuja on Wednesday that the commission was all it could to reduce the cost of transportation in view of the current economic realities.
Mohammad explained that the 2017 hajj fare would vary from state to state, depending on the quality of accommodation and the services the various states would provide for pilgrims in Saudi Arabia.
He said the new arrangement would ensure that pilgrims got the right services from their respective pilgrims’ welfare boards and agencies.
According to him, the various states will be encouraged to try to be the best in a bid to provide the most excellent of services for their pilgrims while in Saudi Arabia.
The NAHCON boss stated that the policy is aimed at safeguarding the interest of Nigerian pilgrims.
He added that the commission would not compromise the safety and comfort of pilgrims.
“Where you have a uniform rate across the country, a state with less capacity to render the right service to the pilgrims will charge the same amount with others that have the capacity.
“Whereas, other states will do their best to give maximum service to the pilgrims, there is no justification for a uniform hajj fare.
“So, what the commission is trying to do is maintain its statutory regulatory mandate as clearly stipulated in the Act establishing it, “Mohammad said.
The executive secretary said as part of the ongoing reform of hajj operations, the commission had successfully reduced the accommodation rate in both Mecca and Madina through direct negotiations with the landlords.
He said in the city of Madina, Nigerian pilgrims seeking accommodation would pay at least 143 dollars less, compared to what they paid last year.
He also said that in Mecca, NAHCON had eliminated the unprofessional and unqualified agents, who were out to maximise profit at the expense of pilgrims.
According to him, the reform being implemented is working and the commission has started seeing the result.
“We have to do everything possible to see how we can reduce the total cost of hajj fare so that the ordinary pilgrim who will pay for hajj will have some succour.
“This is in line with the Federal Government’s plan to reduce the burden on the citizens.
“We would like to make it clear that our interest is that of the pilgrims and our service is to our country.
“We are not out serve any other interest and we will definitely succeed in this reform,“ he said.
Mohammad stated that NAHCON is working towards becoming financially autonomous and self-reliant.
He explained that in 2016, the commission achieved 25 per cent reduction in dependence on government.
“Our target is that by 2018 God willing, all variables being equal, we will just thank the President and say now NAHCON has grown, we want to be self-reliant.
“After that, we will vigorously set out to achieve our major objective which is to establish the Hajj Saving Scheme and Investment.
“Once we reach that stage, I am sure many organisations would like to be on board because it will be an opportunity to have a pure Halal investment that will add value to the Nigerian economy,’’ he said.