It is heart-warming that Nigeria got 95,000 slots for Hajj 2018. This was the same number of slots granted Nigeria for 2017 Hajj by the Saudi government. The slots were shared 75,000 and 20,000 to the State Pilgrims Welfare Boards/Commissions/Agencies and the private tour companies respectively. The slots were granted at a ministerial meeting between Saudi Arabia and Nigeria in Makkah, Saudi Arabia where the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for 2018 was presented, an event that kick starts the processes of Hajj every year.
Over 81,000 Nigerian pilgrims officially participated in the 2017Hajj, kudos to the National HajjCommission of Nigeria which explored all humanly possible means to ease the effects of the fares and opened up amicable communication with the Saudi authorities to relax huge penalties on Nigeria for crossing deadlines. That should not be allowed this year because of the high prestige Nigeria has garnered globally over the years in the management of HajjAffairs.
Unfortunately, the supposedly good news for Nigerian potential pilgrims was marred by the economic recession and increase in Hajj fares. A lot of them who made huge deposits awaiting the announcement of the Hajj fares by NAHCON found it very difficult to complete the fares. In some states, some pilgrims withdrew from the journey. In short, some states could not utilize half of the allocations given to them by NAHCON. But notwithstanding, a few other states exhausted their slots and demanded for more. It was a tough experience that tested the managerial prowess of NAHCON’s leadership which embarked on aggressive awareness campaign throughout the country on the dangers of losing Hajj slots while Nigeria had been making demands for more slots according to the increase in the Muslim population in Nigeria.
On this note, the national ulama team of NAHCON and all relevant teams, including the media have the onerous task of continually preaching to the Nigerian Muslim Ummah on the need to completely utilize the 95,000 Hajj slots for 2018. Since the nation’s economic situation is gradually but steadily improving, chances should not be open for the Saudis to reduce Nigeria’s quota in future due to inability to use up the given slots.
For the ulama team, they should utilize some of their sermons on Fridays and preaching in Mosques and religious gatherings to reach out to the intending pilgrims. They should seek the support of the Islamic scholars within their vicinities. They can go further and explore house to house meeting with Muslim families who have the interest and intention of going to Hajj.
Finally, we must realize that it is not enough to rejoice that Nigeria was granted 95,000 seats for 2018 Hajj, the onus lies on all members of the Nigerian Muslim Ummah to ensure the full utilization of the slots and timely payments of the Hajj fares to guarantee securing best services, as always, for the Nigerian pilgrims.