The ban placed on pilgrims from hajj participating countries by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia due to COVID 19 pandemic has out annual transactions worth N150 billion in jeopardy. National Coordinator, Independent Hajj Reporters, Alhaji Ibrahim Muhammed, who declared this in a write up in which he did a review of the Hajj operations, maintained that the ban on foreign pilgrims has thrown public discourse on the economic impact and the networking effects the ban will have on hajj and Umrah industry.
“The reasons for reeling out such detailed outlook are primarily to draw the attention of the government to the plight of Hajj and Umrah industry that are worst hit. “More importantly, If it is true that Nigeria Hajj and Umrah industry generates N150 billion per season,then the Orosanya report that calls for scrapping of NAHCON is right because, it means that Nigeria Hajj and Umrah industry are reaping so much gain from Hajj and Umrah and yet it allowed government at the centre to be paying for salaries and allowance of its staff and even carrying other responsibilities for hajj industry.
We might have unconsciously shot ourselves in the foot,” he declared. The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) Commissioner for policy, personnel, management and finance Nura Hassan Yakasai, confirmed in the story that “The second impact for us is the loss of revenue. Whatever we are doing as a commission is from the revenue generated during Hajj that we finance our budget.” But unfortunately, this year’s Hajj, according to Muhammed, did not take place and that has put us in a tight corner to finance some of our activities.
The government takes care of our salaries and allowances, but it is from the revenue we generate that we finance some of our capital projects and logistic needs. “Budget is divided into two; there is offshore and onshore. The offshore is what we use when we go for Hajj in Saudi Arabia and since we are not going for Hajj this year that one is completely off. The onshore is the revenue that we generate from pilgrimage and it helps us to finance our activities as a commission. So, definitely the cancellation is going to affect us financially”.
This has confirmed my fear for 2021 hajj operations. Hajj 2021 will be conducted under new sets of rules and this requires adequate and comprehensive education and enlightenment for Hajj 2021 intending pilgrims. Where will NAHCON sources for funds for such financially inclined activities? The COVID 19 palliatives.
Finally, we need to think outside the box and reconfigure the channel in which the commission’s revenue flows in to be able to meet the obvious challenging facing the hajj 2021. This can be done by making wild consolations as earlier publicly requested by Independent Hajj Reporters. There is no time for laxity because Hajj 2021 preparations commenced from the day the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia announced the ban on international pilgrims from hajj 2020. At the end of it all, it is better for Saudi Arabia to ‘lose billions’ (Not Nigeria) than to lose a single pilgrim to an avoidable and foreseeable circumstances.