NATIONAL Hajj Commission of Nigeria (Nahcon) officials have announced that there will be no religious pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia in 2021 for the second year in a row pointing out that the suspension of operations in the wake of Covid-19 remains in place.
Historically, about 80,000 Nigerian Muslims make the religious pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina every year, making the country the seventh largest provider of pilgrims. In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, however, Nigeria did not send any pilgrims to Saudi Arabia in 2020 and with the World Health Organisation yet to offer the all-clear, this suspension will remain in place for 2021.
Nahcon spokesperson, Hadjia Fatima Sanda, said that Saudi Arabia is limiting the number of pilgrims who can visit to miniscule numbers and as such, Nigeria will not be participating in this year’s exercise. Saudi Arabia had announced the need to limit the annual Muslim spiritual rites to only 60,000 pilgrims and strictly to local citizens and foreigners residing in the country.
Saudi Arabia’s ministries of health and hajj, said the kingdom puts human health and safety first. They added that those wishing to perform this year’s hajj must be free of any chronic diseases and be within the ages from 18 to 65 years and be vaccinated against the coronavirus in line with local health guidelines.
Hadjia Sanda, said: “We have accepted that it is Allah’s divine design that multitudes will again this year not perform the hajj. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is only playing out a script ordained by our maker long before creation of the universe and our prayer is that we collectively turn to Him in repentance so that He admits us for hajj in the coming years.”
Nahcon chairman, Alhaji Zikrullah Hassan, commended the resilience of Nigerian intending pilgrims and the support they had exhibited during the long and tortuous wait, including their adherence to each instruction given by the commission. He added that as happened last year, pilgrims seeking a refund of their hajj deposits would be paid without any delay.