THE National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) will centralise accommodation for Nigerian pilgrims in Makkah, starting from the next Hajj season, in 2018.
The chairman of the commission, Abdullahi Muhammad Mukhtar, disclosed this on Wednesday, in Makkah, Saudi Arabia, at a post-Arafat meeting.
According to Mukhtar, the commission would make sure that pilgrims from different states are accommodated in large hotels in Makkah close to the Grand Mosque and end the current arrangement where each state seeks accommodation for its pilgrims.
The NAHCON boss noted, however, that the commission would not stop those states that believe they can make their own arrangements, saying they could use their strength to bargain for the best of accommodation for their pilgrims.
“Very soon, we will discuss with states, our proposal to take Makkah accommodation collectively as a nation, not as individual states. The idea is to get closer to Haram by occupying bigger hotels that can house pilgrims from 10 to 12 states with about 16,000 pilgrims at a go.
“An official from one of the states is already discussing with one of the hotels which can accommodate 16,000 pilgrims at a time. What we are going to pay is not going to be too different from what we are paying the smaller hotels at the moment,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government has expressed satisfaction with the improvement in this year’s hajj exercise while calling on all stakeholders to leverage on the successes recorded.
The Minister of State, Foreign Affairs, Hajia Khadija Bukar Abba Ibrahim, gave the commendation at the post-Arafat meeting to prepare for the transportation of Nigerian pilgrims back to the country.
The minister, represented by Ambassador Haliru Sodangi Shuaib, said the improvement was remarkable when compared to previous years.
She said the improvement had thrown greater challenges to Hajj administrators to ensure that they consolidate their efforts in subsequent Hajj exercises.
Also, NAHCON commended the media for the effective coverage of the Hajj activities in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Mukhtar gave the commendation during NAHCON meeting with officials of states, air carriers and zonal coordinators in Makkah.
He thanked the media for its continuous support and asked for a stronger alliance to deliver quality services to Nigeria.
In the meantime, NAHCON has concluded plans to airlift Nigerian pilgrims to their respective destinations.
According to the Commissioner for Operations, Alhaji Abdullahi Modibbo, the return journey would be concluded on or before October 5.
“We have got the approval of our flights back to Nigeria from the Saudi Arabia aviation authorities and here we have the schedule of the three air carriers, Flynas, Med-View and MaxAir as follows.
“MaxAir will transport the pilgrims between September 9 and October 5, Flynas will operate from September 6 to October 2 while Med-View will shuttle between Nigeria and Saudi Arabia from September 10 to 25. The weighing of luggage has commenced and I want to advise the pilgrims not to allow anybody to use them to peddle drugs to Nigeria. In all, the airlines will be transporting 65, 601 pilgrims and 950 officials back to Nigeria,” Modibbo said.
The commissioner in charge of personnel and finance, Alhaji Yusuf Adebayo Ibrahim, gave the assurance that pilgrims’ feeding and transportation would continue until they reunite with their families.
The head of NAHCON’s medical team, Dr Ibrahim Kana, confirmed the death of 14 persons so far, including a NAHCON staff member.
Kana said about 18,000 pilgrims were attended to by his team, including about 6,000 in Mina and Arafat.