Hope has risen for Nigerians intending to perform the lesser hajj during Ramadan this year as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia lessened its restrictions of visit to the holy land. The restriction, which was in place during the last Ramadan prevented many from Nigeria who have even paid for the exercise from visiting Saudi last year. Like the arrangment already in place fir lesser hajj, preparations are also in top gear for the forthcoming Hajj operations. Chairman of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), Alhaji Zikrullah Hassan, his commissioners, management and staff members of the commission have been vaccinated with the Oxford Astra-Zeneca vaccine against COVID-19. According to a statement by the head of NAHCON’s public affairs unit, Fatima Sanda Usara, before the vaccination, the commission had sent letters advising state pilgrims’ welfare boards and intending pilgrims to register and receive jabs of the vaccine under their respective state government allocations.
This move, the statement said, followed an advisory letter from the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) expressing fear that if intending pilgrims missed the first phase of vaccination, the time frame might be insufficient for them to receive the second dose before the 2021 hajj season.
“It is, therefore, recommended that intending pilgrims wishing to participate in the 2021 Hajj should seize the opportunity of the ongoing inoculation exercise to be vaccinated. “Some SPWBs have already commenced vaccination of their registered pilgrims in alliance with their respective state governments,” the statement noted.
After receiving his jab of the vaccine, the NAHCON chairman expressed gratitude for witnessing the day, stressing that he “feels fine.” Hassan encouraged whoever wished to participate in this year’s hajj to have hope and start preparing by first availing themselves of vaccination as exemplified by NAHCON. The vaccines were administered to the chairman and others at the Hajj House, Abuja. Also, the Lagos State government has vaccinated about 1,700 Muslims who intend to embark on this year’s holy pilgrimage to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with the Oxford- AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. A statement from the public affairs unit of the state Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Board (LSMPWB), signed by Mr Taofeek Lawal, said the two-day vaccination exercise, which took place last weekend at the Secretariat, Alausa, Ikeja, was conducted by officials of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), in collaboration with the Lagos State Ministry of Health.
Speaking during the exercise, the Commissioner for Home Affairs, Prince Anofiu Olanrewaju Elegushi, emphasised that since the COVID-19 vaccine is one of the requirements for gaining entry into Saudi Arabia, it became expedient for every intending pilgrim and other stakeholders to get the vaccine. He disclosed that 1,518 intending pilgrims, 105 clerics, 25 hajj guides and 52 members of staff of LSMPWB were vaccinated during the exercise.