PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari has approved the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria’s (Nahcon) request to open an operational office in the Saudi Arabian city of Jeddah to help cater for the large number of pilgrims who flock there.
Historically, Nigeria has had the seventh largest number of pilgrims globally behind Indonesia, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Egypt and Iran. With an annual number of pilgrims that total about 80,000, Nigeria is a very important nation when it comes to hajj and the cost of the operation on the country annually is high.
Zikrullah Hassan, the Nahcon chairman, said that the recent approval of the new office by President Buhari would go a long way to reduce the spending by the commission in its offshore budget. Speaking at a retreat organised by the commission for its board members in Accra, Ghana, Mr Hassan said that Nahcon is presently spending about 600,000 Saudi Riyal, which as rent for the its office accommodation in the upscale Shara Mansoor neighbourhood of Mecca.
He lamented the fact that the rent has escalated more than three-fold a as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. He added that as a result, the commission has decided to purchase \a premises to save expenditure.
Mr Hassan said: “This higher amount is what we have been paying in the last three years for a property that could not be utilised for even three months. This we considered as a great loss and economically unrealistic, so we are, therefore, determined to migrate from being tenants to landlord in Saudi Arabia by end of this year.
In addition, Mr Hassan also pointed out that the commission has reached the last stage of obtaining an operational license from the National Board for Technical Education towards the establishment of the Hajj Institute of Nigeria. He disclosed that the Corporate Affairs Commission certificate for the institute has already been secured while the temporary site of the institute, which is located at Annex A of Hajj House in Abuja, is 98% ready.
He added that the institute would train and issue certificates on Hajj management, professionalise the operations and ensure that only experts on pilgrimage would manage the hajj industry for best results. Furthermore, the institute would serve as training hub for all English speaking countries globally.
Mr Hassan further disclosed that Nahcon has been collaborating with the National Information Technology Development Agency to establish a digital economy centre. he added that it would serve as an e-learning centre under the Hajj Institute of Nigeria.