Hajj operator laments low patronage
The economic situation in the country has been identified as the major cause of low patronage of Nigerians in the 2018 Hajj exercise.
The Managing Director of Hajj Mabrur Ventures Limited, Alhaji Abdul Hameed Solate, who reveled this in an exclusive interview with The Guardian noted that the issue of foreign exchange was well taking care by the Federal Government but the core setback is the economic downturn.
“ Because of the economic challenges pilgrim respond very late, which also affect the planning procedure of tour operators”, he said.
Solate said although the Federal Government and National Hajj Commission (NAHCON) made spirited effort to overcome the challenges but the introduction of biometrics, where pilgrims will have to travel for capturing before operators can commence processing of their visa is overwhelming.
“ We have just only four centers across the country were pilgrims can do the capturing. They have to travel to this places before they could be captured.”
He added that Hajj fare is paid electronically now, if you don’t have fund in the system, there is no how you can pay to Saudi authority. Making it difficult for operators not to pay on time.
He said the total number of Hajj slots giving to Nigeria is95, 000 by Saudi authority, out of which 15,000 was allocated to private tour operators. With the report on ground Nigeria was able to secure only 55,000 sits out of the 95,000 slots that is available.
He said that despite that, there is no major increment in the cost of hajj seat compare to the previous year, there is tremendous drop in the level of patronage.
“It affect both the government and private tour operators, the drop is basically because of financial situation in the country. We are all conscious of the economic situation; some operators even reduce their fare trying to see how the price can be affordable for intending pilgrims.
He said his agency would be taking 325 intending pilgrims for the spiritual exercise. The airlift commenced from 8 of August 2018 to 13 of August and they are expected back in the country by 29th of August.
He said the core value of his agency is to make the spiritual exercise rewarding in the sight of Allah. “ Going for hajj is a spiritual journey not like any other journey when you go for sight seeing. We are so much conscious on how people perform their hajj in order to get the necessary reward
“ Hajj Mabrur have orientate the intending pilgrims with the right education right from home.
We are going along with scholars who are going to guide pilgrims through out the journey, in terms of making the hajj exercise easier. Likewise our welfare officers would be on ground to ensure they have enough support to make the exercise hitch free.
We offer two different hajj packages, it depends on what you can afford, we have the economic package where we give one square meal and the other package provide two square meal for pilgrims through out their stay in the holy land.
There are medical personnel’s on ground to help pilgrim with health challenges. A mini clinic will be run within the hotel to ensure they are in good health throughout their stay in the holy land.
He said the issue encounter by Nigeria pilgrims at Mina would not be de same this year . “ The problem arises last year due to high number of pilgrims. The actual number of pilgrims expecting from Nigeria was quiet more than the expected number. Saudi authority assured us that it will not happen again by the grace of God”, he said.
He urged pilgrims to be law abiding and avoid prohibited items. “During the sensitizing training, we have giving them list of things they are not suppose to take while travelling. ‘During the training we invite officers from NDLA, Custom, immigration who guided them and advice on things they can take along. They should go along with the mindset of fear of Allah that they will worship him and have lot patient” he said.