The Vice President, Kashim Shettima, has urged the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) to rigorously review its exchange rate to come up with more acceptable fare for future Hajj exercises.
Shettima made the call when he received briefing from the management of NAHCON led by its Chairman, Alhaji Zikrullah Hassan at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Wednesday.
It was reported that Shettima spoke against the backdrop of the problem of the volatility of the exchange rate on the commission’s finances which was caused by the unification of the different forex windows.
He also advised the management of NAHCON to make adequate arrangements to take care of the pilgrims.
Shettima said that though hajj was a spiritual exercise, the commission must not neglect the well-being of the pilgrims throughout their stay in the holy land.
He added: “The welfare of the pilgrims is at the core of the pilgrimage and as such the commission must give it the priority it deserves.
“The management must be proactive as it prepares for the future. You have to rigorously review your exchange rate and come up with a much more acceptable figure.
“It is absolutely essential that we review this mechanism and make it practical and effective to give us maximum success in managing the hajj operations from year to year.”
Similarly, Shettima emphasised the need for NAHCON to develop a robust mechanism to curtail the challenges faced by the people.
He further advised them on the need to educate the pilgrims on their rights in the holy land by making use of the social media platforms and other traditional media to enhance its visibility.
Shettima commended the commission on the various initiatives to further enhance its activities especially the launching of the Hajj Savings’ Scheme.
The vice president said: “And the Hajj Institute of Nigeria and Public Private Partnership Arrangements for Kano, Lagos, Maiduguri and Ilorin Projects.”
Shettima also lauded NAHCON for a successful 2023 hajj operations in spite of many challenges it faced.
He added: “We have to offer praises to Allah for the successful conduct of 2023 hajj, in spite of harsh conditions faced by people in Saudi Arabia occasioned by the climate change and other factors.
“The temperature rose to unimaginable level, though Nigeria was not the only country affected by the effect of the climate change.”
Shettima commiserated with the families of the 29 pilgrims who died during the 2023 hajj exercise.
He urged the commission “to learn lessons from the last hajj operations and gird our loins and make efforts to address all the shortcomings in the upcoming hajj operations.”
Earlier, Hassan disclosed that the recently concluded 2023 Hajj was successful largely due to the prompt transportation of the pilgrims to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
He also said that the provision of accommodation to the pilgrims, feeding and efficient medical services at all the phases of hajj was successful.
Shettima said: “We are here to brief His Excellency, the Vice President about National Hajj commission, our mandates, our scorecard and our challenges.
“As you are aware, the Vice President is in charge of supervising our activities so we have a duty from time to time to report to him about our challenges, and about our plans as well.
“The National Hajj commission is actually well prepared for the take off of Hajj 2024.
“As you know, there are a number of issues that have to be settled particularly this issue of the exchange rate.
“And as you are aware, over 90 per cent of Hajj fare is in US dollars in the sense of the flight, the cost of the flight, the hotels, all the services being provided in the kingdom.”
According to Hassan, all these are still being worked out.
He revealed that, already, the commission had gotten the approval of Shettima to start in earnest in preparation for 2024 Hajj in a matter of weeks.
Hassan said: “We will inform Nigerians, exactly how we intend to key into the roadmap of Saudi Arabia. So that our planning will be in time .
“So that when you plan early enough it will also lead to smooth success of the operation.”
Recall that President Bola Tinubu had recently returned the supervision of NAHCON under the office of the vice president.