Before the Hajj 2016 airlift
Barring any hitches, airlift of Nigerian pilgrims to this year Hajj in Saudi Arabia may commence by first week of August. Medview Airlines Limited, Max Air, AZMAN Air Services and Fly-Nas Air (Saudi Arabia designated carrier) are set to ferry our dear pilgrims to Saudi Arabia.
Last week, NAHCON and the approved air carriers officially signed and sealed the 2016 Hajj airlift agreement, waiting to be delivered. In furtherance to the task ahead, NAHCON has inaugurated aviation monitoring committee and other standing committee for Hajj 2016 operation.
Likewise, a total of 136,020 Indian pilgrims will perform Haj this year. According to Indian Deputy Consul General and Haj Consul Mohammed Shahid Alam, four air carriers namely: Air India, SpiceJet, Saudi Arabian Airline and Flyna Air (Saudi designate airline) will transport India Pilgrims to Saudi Arabia this year. Pakistan’s 107, 210 pilgrims will be airlifted by Pakistani Air, Shaheen air and Saudi Arabia airline.
Let’s examine the critical areas of Hajj operation. Pilgrims movement i.e. transportation and accommodation are major determinant factors in the success or otherwise of Hajj exercise. So, NAHCON should uphold its last year record of transporting pilgrims before its schedule date or even less.
In 2105, about 95% of Nigeria pilgrims were airlifted to Madina airport directly, thereby relieving pilgrims the stress of going to Madina by road.
To surpass the 2015 record, airliners, states pilgrims boards and other relevant security agencies must be time cautious because the advantage of time and place in all practical actions is half a victory; which being lost is irrecoverable.
Accordingly, the agreement for the provision of accommodation for pilgrims at both Makkah and Madina has been signed and sealed. Based on the new guidelines issued by NAHCON, the building to be provided as accommodation for Nigerian pilgrims must be duly registered with the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and other relevant Saudi agencies; the authorized capacity of the building should be 500 bed spaces and above all should be situated within one (1) kilometer radius from the Haram in both Makkah and Madinah.
Where the distance is beyond one (1) kilometer radius, shuttle bus to and from the Haram shall be provided on daily basis at a ratio of one 25-seater bus to 150 pilgrims; the toilet ratio per pilgrim must not exceed six (6) pilgrims per toilet within the building; have adequate kitchen, dining facilities; have standard bedding facilities like clean bed sheets, pillows, blankets, etc.
The online visa request for Nigerian pilgrims is ongoing in all the 36 states pilgrims’ boards and agencies. The E-tracking online hajj integrated system introduced by Saudi Arabia has transform hajj services include visa processes. Pilgrims now access the level of service rendered to them via this platform. It creates an open transparency system of Hajj management.
The renew confidence in Hajj operation was as a result of the N1.7 billion naira pilgrims refund recovered and distributed to pilgrims by NAHCON for services not rendered or rendered unsatisfactorily during the 2015 Hajj exercise. Pilgrims now believed they will get a commensurate value for their money. The above record breaking achievement was made manifest because of the E-track.
Currently, the commission is sponsoring a pilgrim’s enlightenment programme on NTA (Monday 6-6:30pm), provides interface for pilgrims to understand the spiritual and administrative dos and don’ts of Hajj. For maximum impact, state’s pilgrim’s boards need to domesticate such enlightenment program in their various states, and to translate it into local dialects for the benefits of pilgrims who are illiterates. Airliners should make provision for on-board pilgrim’s enlightenment to serve as a refresher tutorial for pilgrims on transit.
To avoid the repeat of confusion that followed last year stampede, the commission introduced E-bands (Electronic bands) to be worn by pilgrims for easy tracking and identification in the events of an emergency. In the same vein, The Indian Haj Mission has introduced innovative Global Positioning System (GPS) application with each pilgrim given traceable band to help locate and track its pilgrims in the events of an emergency. That was in addition to Saudi Electronic bracelet recently introduced.
In addition, the commission also appointed Jaiz Bank Plc as its official collection agent for Hadaya (animal sacrifice fee) for this year hajj. A move meant to streamline the process of animal sacrifice and to shield pilgrims from exploitative tendencies of ‘middlemen’.
Finally, the projection stage has been meticulous on the part of Hajj commission and some states pilgrims’ boards. However, ability to stick to the blue prints will determine its success. Realization is an offspring of a realistic plan, and those who fail to plan early in Hajj exercise are potential passenger of a fail train - which Hajj administrators might have learned in earnest.
Muhammed is the National Coordinator, Independent Hajj Reporters