Muslim media group alerts intending pilgrims against phony tour operators


•Saudi Arabia says 2021 Hajj plan depends on pandemic

THE Muslim Media Watch Group of Nigeria (MMWG) has decried what it called the preponderance of advertisements in the electronic media in respect of this year’s Hajj, warning intending pilgrims across the country against falling victim to fraudsters masquerading as tour operators.

In a statement on Wednesday by its national coordinator, Alhaji Ibrahim Abdullahi, the MMWG recalled the advent of COVID-19 early 2020 which which prevented pilgrims from across the world (except a few in Saudi Arabia) from performing Hajj last year.

The group said: “It is no longer news that even though there would be Hajj this year, Insha Allah, the number of pilgrims to be allowed by the Saudi authorities has been drastically reduced.

“On Hajj 2021, the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) under its present hardworking leadership of Alhaji Dhikrullahi Hassan has repeatedly stated through the mass media that the Saudi authorities are yet to officially allocate Hajj slots to any nation.

“MMWG, therefore, sees advertisements by international travels agencies and Hajj travels companies for people to come and pay for 2021 Hajj now as totally suspicious and questionable because those who paid to them and the states’ pilgrims welfare boards as well as FCT and did not collect their Hajj fares would be prioritised for this year’s Hajj.

“In the past, some fraudulent tour operators in this country had duped many pilgrims who wanted to travel with them through international routes by collecting payment without registering them for Hajj.

“The Muslim Media Watch Group of Nigeria, therefore, warns intending Muslim pilgrims to be wary of these scammers who up still use the electronic media to advertise their agencies even though no slot has yet been officially given to any nation.”

The group commended NAHCON for what it described as its efficient and effective regulatory roles aimed at sanctioning fraudulent tour operators.

It also commended the commission for its achievements so far on the Hajj Savings Scheme, training of ataff for effective Hajj operations and its effort to reduce Hajj fare and the number of days spent during Hajj.

Saudi Arabia said on Sunday that the mechanism that would be in place for this year’s Hajj pilgrimage was dependent on the developments related to the coronavirus pandemic, according to Asharq Al-Awsat.

At a press briefing, acting Media Minister, Dr Majid al-Qasabi, remarked that the world was facing major challenges because of the pandemic, given that the virus was constantly mutating.

He also noted a shortage of vaccinations in several countries.

“These factors have forced a delay in announcing the plan of this year’s holy pilgrimage.

“The ministers of health and Hajj and Umrah will clarify the pilgrimage mechanism in coming days, given the ongoing challenges,” he said.

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