2021 Hajj: No COVID-19 vaccination, no pilgrimage ― NAHCON

As it awaits a formal pronouncement from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on this year’s Hajj exercise, the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) has declared that there will not be a pilgrimage for any intending pilgrims who refuses to be vaccinated for COVID-19.

The Chairman/ Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Alhaji Zikrullah Kunle Hassan, made the declaration, on Monday, in Abuja at a meeting with the commission’s fourth board held with the Ulama.

While saying that the commission would not be involved in the controversies surrounding COVID-19, Hassan informed that feelers from Saudi Arabia revealed that the country’s Ministry of Health made vaccination for the disease compulsory.

The NAHCON CEO told the clerics that the commission was not going to force anyone to take the vaccine, saying, however, that, “We have the power to say that if you don’t want to take the vaccine, you can stay at your home.”

According to him, the commission had been in touch with the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 to ensure early and adequate Hajj travel arrangements to be set by the Saudi authorities and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

“As we remain prayerful that 2021 Hajj will take place, the Commission has been in constant touch with the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 to ensure early and adequate Hajj travel arrangements that will meet the standard to be set by the Saudi authorities and the World Health Organisation.

“At this stage, I want to assure you that all hands are on deck to achieve the utmost success. The Commission is awaiting formal pronouncement by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” Alhaji Hassan said.

He submitted that last year was a year of mixed feelings for most people of the work, particularly those who were of the Hajj family, as a result of the inability of prospective international pilgrims to perform Hajj.

Hassan expressed the hope that there would be a Hajj exercise for Nigerian Muslims this year “on the account of the fact that Umrah has started and also that the vaccine against COVID-19 distribution is gaining momentum globally.”

He then appealed to the clerics to continue to be at the forefront of the spiritual fight against the COVID-19 pandemic for divine intervention.

According to Hassan, “this work will become increasingly important as we confront disinformation and unsubstantiated rumour about the efficacy and safety of the Covid-19 vaccine. It is imperative for our brothers and sisters to adhere strictly to the Federal Government protocols to curve the spread of the pandemic.”

Enumerating what the fourth NAHCON board, which he is the chairman, has done since its inauguration, on February 13, 2020, the Chairman informed that the commission had tirelessly worked to improve the management of Hajj in Nigeria, declaring that the board had pledged to make Hajj fare affordable to enable Nigerians to perform Hajj.

According to him, “to achieve this objective, the Hajj Savings Scheme (HSS) was launched in Kano on 4th October 2020.

“The Scheme was designed for all Nigerian pilgrims irrespective of their financial status to save gradually for the fulfilment of the 5th Pillar of Islam and at the same time provide the opportunity for financial inclusion through investment.

“It is a critical part of our master plan to not only make Hajj affordable but to make a better coordination in the airlift and accommodation of pilgrims among other services,” the NAHCON CEO informed.

He further informed the gathering that his board was giving priority to the establishment of Hajj Training Institute (HTI) with a view to professionalising Hajj management and deepening the knowledge and intellectual capability of the Muslim Ummah about Hajj beyond the scope of the rituals and Hajj economy.

While saying that the board had made tremendous progress in that direction, Hassan informed that the institute would take off before the end of 2021.

In order to improve on its internally generated revenue (IGR), the NAHCON boss informed that “the Commission is making concerted effort to enter into a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) to make some of our Hajj camps and landed assets economically functional all-year-round.”

Hassan said that the clerics were invited for the meeting for three reasons: to interact and intimate them of the board’s vision and activities; to seek their advice as veterans on Hajj matters and to request their to continuously support the commission with prayers in its noble task to serve pilgrims.

“It is gratifying to note that many of you have worked with us to ensure that our pilgrims observe the laid down regulations both in Nigeria and the Holy Land in order to have smooth Hajj operation,” he said, adding that more could be done to improve the wellbeing of both Nigerian Muslims and pilgrims.

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