CHAIRMAN, National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), Alhaji Abdullahi Mukhtar, has said that he refrained from participating in the 2016 Hajj rites in order to effectively monitor the performance of Hajj duties by the 76,000 Nigerian pilgrims.
Mukhtar told journalists in Muna, Saudi Arabia, that he believed in the efficacy of the voluntary action and stressed the need for more relevant stakeholders to key into the idea.
According to him, it is difficult to effectively combine performance of Hajj and officiating as one of the duties is bound to get in the way of the other.
“It is very important to say here that it is tedious to combine officiating and performance of Hajj. We have done that in the past and we realised that it takes toll on our body and sometimes, you don’t have the right state of mind to perform the official function again.
“From 2017, Insha Allah, we will find a way to make it a policy for the commission and encourage state pilgrim boards to buy into it.
“As a nation, if we don’t do it now, there will come a time, Saudi Arabia will say that if you are coming for Hajj, your case should be different from those coming for officiating.
“So, before they do it, we will encourage individuals to volunteer to assist the pilgrims and we will make it rotational so that when you do Hajj this year, you will officiate next year by monitoring and assisting the pilgrims,” he said
Mukhtar said he led by example in 2016 by not putting on the ihram, the dress which physically marks the intention to perform Hajj.
He said his decision paid off as some NAHCON joined him in the crusade, hence, the hitch-free Hajj exercise that has been recorded so far by the commission in 2016.
He assured pilgrims that he would discuss the idea with other relevant stakeholders from across Nigeria before it would be made a policy.
“Saudi Arabia, in the future, may ask some people to suspend Hajj to be able to monitor and assist the pilgrims,” he said.
Mukhtar attributed the low casualty rate among Nigerians in the course of 2016 Hajj to the grace of Allah as well as cooperation between officials and the pilgrims.
“Unlike the past when pilgrims were busy roaming about under the sun, this year, they are busy praying and supplicating to Allah in their tents.
“Our pilgrims are well behaved. They listen to our instructions. If this behaviour is sustained, we will record the lowest casualty rate in the history of Hajj operations in Nigeria,” he said.
Mukhtar said despite the hot weather in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia during the Hajj period, good advice and treatment by the Nigerian medical team, assisted in mitigating the casualty rate.