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Saudi turns down Nigeria’s request for 5,000 more Hajj slots

By Monsurudeen Olowoopejo

The Saudi Arabian authorities has turned down request of 5,000 additional Hajj slots presented by the Federal Government through the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), stressing that the number approved cannot be adjusted.

It said that the should it accept Nigeria’s request, then that gesture must be extended to other countries and that facilities available to prevent COVID-19 spread cannot cater for additional pilgrims.

Confirming the development, the NAHCON Chairman, Zikrullah Hassan, appealed to the state governments and travel agencies particularly the intending pilgrims who were earlier assured that they would be embarking on the journey to Saudi Arabia for the exercise.

Hassan, through a statement released by the commission’s public affairs head, Fatima Usara, disclosed that the NAHCON’S Commissioner of Operations, Abdullahi Hardawa, who led a delegation to actualize the offer, tried all efforts to ensure that the Saudi authorities fulfill their earlier assurance that such request could be granted.

According to the statement, the visit became especially important to lessen Private Tour Operators’ genuine outcry over shortfall in number of clients they would be able to accommodate for the Hajj. It was also targeted at managing pressure of other Nigerians desperate to be participants in the season’s pilgrimage.

“Hence, NAHCON’s formidable team of representatives as well as the strong presentation made by our Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, to the Saudi Minister of Hajj and Umrah, unfortunately, the promise could no longer be fulfilled. Therefore, Nigeria’s Hajj industry is left with its initial allocation of 43,008.

“In view of this, NAHCON wishes to solicit the understanding of those aggrieved due to the failure to be counted among this year’s successful Haji applicants. NAHCON beseeches them to accept it as the will of The Almighty and look forward to next opportunity if God spares our lives. The Commission has done its best but the Almighty has decided the rest.

“The Commission is aware of the agitation from all its publics, to wit, the States Pilgrims Welfare Boards, subscribers through the Hajj Savings Scheme, Private Tour Operators, including its own staff as well. NAHCON management is consoled because it did not ostracize any group in the distribution of available Hajj seats, but of course, not all would be successful, because, the Commission was working within the boundaries of what was available.

“Yet, management understands the frustration of many who were desperate to participate in this year’s pilgrimage after two years of blockade. As people of faith we should remember that Hajj is a divine call that one would answer at the destined time; no matter one’s wealth, health status, age or free time.

“NAHCON assures those unable to proceed for the Hajj that their Hajj fare deposits are untouched and safe. Thus, the Commission will order release of their monies to them without delay should they request for a refund. If they decide otherwise, they should be rest assured that they will not be short changed in anyway.

“Similarly, NAHCON had sought for waiver for Hajj officials above 65 years of age who due to their relevance to the Hajj operation, their presence in Saudi Arabia is crucial. This request too was turned down by Saudi Arabia. Hence any official above 65 years is exempted from participating in the 2022 Hajj duties.

“While soliciting for the understanding of all concerned and indeed the general public, the Commission sincerely regrets all the inconveniences as well as all such obvious/likely losses associated with the incidences highlighted about”.

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