The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), on Wednesday, inaugurated the coordinating committee to ensure a smooth introduction of Saudi immigration screening of Nigerian pilgrims in Nigeria, popularly known as the Makkah Route Initiative (MRI).
The initiative, which is a partnership among NAHCON, Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) and the Saudi Arabian immigration department, is to enable screening of Nigerian pilgrims by Saudi Arabian immigration in Nigeria before departing to Saudi Arabia.
A statement signed and made available to Tribune Online by the Head, NAHCON Public Affairs Unit, Hajiya Fatima Sanda Umar, members of the committee were drawn from the NIS, health sector, national security, aviation agencies and NAHCON.
Speaking while inaugurating the technical committee, NAHCON Chairman/Chief Executive Officer, Alhaji Zikrullah Kunle Hassan, described the assignment as a call to national service that would assist Nigeria in qualifying for implementation of the MRI in the country.
He informed the committee members that part of their responsibilities was to study the MRI qualification requirements and to ensure that Nigeria met the conditions before arrival of the Saudi Arabian inspection team that would assess NAHCON’s request and readiness for inclusion in the project.
The committee’s terms of reference, according to the statement, included: to advise NAHCON on the appropriate time to host the Saudi inspection team; to facilitate the positive outcome of discussions and inspection of facilities by the Saudi contingent; to advise NAHCON on a draft agreement to be signed between the two countries on the MRI matter; to scrutinize the initiative for the possibility of security breach and advise accordingly; to make adequate arrangement for eventual take-off; to monitor the project after take-off and advise NAHCON on modification/improvement of scope thereafter; submission of periodic reports with recommendations on any matter incidental to the agreement.
The Makkah Route Initiative (MRI) is a Saudi-based project that will ease the immigration process and other security screening checks in the Kingdom.
According to Usara, pilgrims from participating countries would not have to undergo another screening upon arrival in Saudi Arabia but would instead move straight into their waiting buses that would convey them to their hotels where their luggage would be awaiting them as well.
This, she stated, was because pilgrims’ luggage would be collected from them from their country’s point of screening.
Five countries have already enrolled into the scheme, which Nigeria wishes to start on an experimental stage. Following a formal request to participate in the initiative in 2018, NAHCON followed up with two different reminders for inclusion in the scheme.
Usara stated that expression of conditional approval finally came recently through a letter the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah sent to NAHCON indicating its willingness to inspect Nigeria’s facilities before taking a decision.
Meanwhile, she informed the members of the coordinating committee are Dr Fatima Muhammad Yusuf; Dodo Ahmad; Ibrahim Usman; Manu Mohammed; A.B Hausawa; Musa Bello and Nura Dankande.
Others are NAHCON staff namely Dr Danbaba Haruna; Uztaz Muhammad Lamim and Barrister Usman Mamza, the Commission’s Legal Adviser. The committee has Alhaji Abdullahi Magaji Hardawa, NAHCON’s Commissioner Operations, as its Chairman.