Independent Hajj Reporters, a Civil Society Organisation (CSO) has appealed to the National Assembly to suspend the amendment of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) establishment Act, until after the 2022 Hajj operation.
The CSO gave the advice in a statement by its National Coordinator, Malam Ibrahim Muhammad, on Wednesday in Abuja.
Muhammad said that the recent moves by the Senate and House of Representatives to amend the NAHCON Act as it relates to the operations of the Hajj Saving Scheme (HSS) came at the wrong time.
He urged NASS to suspend all actions capable of jeopardising the participation of Nigerians in the 2022 Hajj.
He said that the CSO acknowledged NASS’s constitutional responsibility of making laws and amending the same or performing oversight functions.
Muhammad, however, said that the sudden interest of the lawmakers in the Hajj saving scheme posed danger to Nigerians intending to perform the 2022 hajj.
“The Senate in a motion sponsored by Sen. Ibrahim Danbaba (Sokoto South, APC) is planning to amend the law to compel NAHCON to domicile all funds accruing to the Hajj Savings Scheme in the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), instead of commercial banks.
“Earlier, the House of Representatives had directed NAHCON to suspend the implementation of the scheme after one of the lawmakers raised a motion to investigate it.
“Independent Hajj Reporters believes that the timing of this bill will hamper the operational ecosystem and alter the status quo of hajj activities which will adversely affect this year’s pilgrimage.
“Our appeal for the suspension of any action that can create operational challenges is centred on the interest of 2022 intending pilgrims, who are not a party to the current administrative and legal squabbles,” he said.
Muhammad noted that actions on how to make hajj operations successful in Nigeria could be reactivated after the 2022 Hajj without disrupting the hajj industry.
“Since 2019, our dear intending pilgrims have paid to travel to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to fulfill the fifth pillar of Islam. Unfortunately, COVID-19 shattered their hope of performing the Hajj when desired.
“It is interesting to note that thousands of intending pilgrims’ hajj fare is currently domiciled in Hajj Saving Scheme with Jaiz Bank.
“Therefore, suspending such scheme now will definitely affect 2022 Hajj pilgrims because of limited time,” he said.
According to the national coordinator, the transportation of intending pilgrims this year will begin on May 31, following the timetable released by Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Civil Aviation.
“This leaves Nigeria and (other hajj participating countries) the maximum of less than 30 days to complete all preparations for the transportation of about 43,000 Nigerian pilgrims to Saudi Arabia.
“With this development, subjecting NAHCON or States Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Board officials to other engagements will definitely create an unwarranted distraction that may jeopardise the 2022 Hajj.
Muhammad urged the two chambers of the National Assembly and Hajj stakeholders in the country, to work towards seamless conduct of the 2022 Hajj for the sake of Nigeria’s intending pilgrims, who have deposited nearly N2.5 million each to perform the hajj.