Be­fore the Hajj 2016 air­lift

Daily Trust - - OPINION -

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

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