The Lagos State Government has expressed its determination to put necessary strategies and machinery in place towards ensuring that the number of intending pilgrims performing the Y2020 holy pilgrimage in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia increases from the present 2,500 to a minimum of 4,000 persons.
The Honourable Commissioner for Home Affairs, Prince Anofiu Elegushi, who disclosed this while addressing the management and staff of the Lagos State Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Board during his working visit to the Board, expressed his displeasure over the continuous reduction in the number of intending pilgrims from Lagos State.
While querying the rationale behind the reduction, the Commissioner wondered why the number of intending pilgrims from States like Kano and Kaduna did not decrease over the years despite the fact that every Nigerian is experiencing the same economic downturn in the country.
He promised to do everything humanly possible towards ensuring that Lagos airlifts more intending pilgrims this year and urged the management and staff of the Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Board to endeavour to improve on operations, especially in the area of airlifting of pilgrims, hotel accommodation and information dissemination.
He said, “Being a sensitive exercise, hajj operation has become an interface between Nigeria and Saudi Arabia, hence, the State cannot afford to renege on its mandate of improving on providing seamless and prompt airlifting exercise, befitting hotel accommodation nearer to Haram both in Mecca and Madinah as well as adequate and effective information dissemination to the pilgrims”.
The Commissioner added that these three areas are very germane and critical for the Board if it must sustain its enviable status of being the best among the rest in hajj operations across Nigeria; retain its regular pilgrims and encourage more patronage.
While appealing to all stakeholders, particularly the Lagos State House of Assembly, Chairmen of Local Government and Local Council Development Areas and other Ministries/Departments/Agencies of government to partner with the State Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Board in this regard, he assured them of qualitative and excellent service delivery during the hajj exercise.
Earlier in his welcome address, the Executive Secretary of the Board, Mr Rahman Ishola, informed the Commissioner that out of the 2,500 slots allocated to Lagos by NAHCON for Y2020 pilgrimage exercise, the Board had sold over 1,500 forms since its commencement, adding that Lagos may request for additional slots if it exhausts the initial 2,500.
He further notified the Commissioner that part of the strategies put in place by the board to get patronage include sensitisation of the public through the placement of advertisement/ jingles in both print and electronic media, distribution of handbills/fliers, meeting stakeholders directly in the Local Government and Local Council Development Areas as well as visiting Religious Organisations and Mosques across the State.
Ishola, however, appealed to the Commissioner for assistance on the challenges facing the Board such as inadequate office accommodation and furniture among others.
The Commissioner was accompanied on the working visit by the Permanent Secretary, Mrs Adebunmi Adekanye and other top officials of the Ministry.