The acting Chairman/CEO of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), Mallam Jalal Ahmed Arabi, has appealed to the Saudi Arabian service provider, the Mutawiff of African Non-Arab Countries, to significantly enhance services for Nigerian pilgrims in the Masha’ir (holy sites at Mina and Arafat).
Arabi made the appeal during a meeting with the chairman of the Saudi establishment, Dr Ahmad Abbas Sindi, at the Hajj House in Abuja with Dr Ahmad Abbas Sindi.
The NAHCON Chairman/CEO stressed the importance of a collaborative effort to find solutions to the issues encountered during the 2023 Hajj.
NAHCON Deputy Director, Information and Publications, Mousa Ubandawaki, informed that the meeting, which was attended by some secretaries of state pilgrims welfare boards, executives and members of the Association of Hajj and Umrah operators of Nigeria (AHUON), addressed concerns regarding services in Masha’ir during the 2023 Hajj and outlined plans for the 2024 Hajj, particularly in the areas of feeding, transportation, space allocation, security and refunds, among other topics.
According to him, Arabi emphasised that the purpose of the interface was to pave the way for a new approach that would effectively address problems faced during the 2023 Hajj.
“As partners, we are here to discuss, collaborate, engage and interact, with the aim of nurturing this partnership.
“The 2023 Hajj has gone and the 2024 Hajj is approaching. Therefore, it is essential to address all details and ensure a smoother experience than what was achieved in the past,” Arabi was quoted to have said.
Responding, Dr Sindi assured of a revamped Hajj experience for Nigerian pilgrims in the forthcoming 2024 Hajj.
He informed that efforts and commitments had been made to improve service delivery in Mina and Arafat, citing changes in manpower, systems and control of the Arafat project.
Sindi also highlighted plans to enhance toilet facilities and their distribution, adding that in terms of catering, a new policy is to be implemented to ensure Nigerian pilgrims are served promptly and with Nigerian menu.
According to him, “we have engaged vendors to source produce from Nigeria and hired Nigerian cooks to ensure that meals served during the Masha’ir align with Nigerian tastes.
“We are fully committed to implementing these improvements and ensuring efficient food delivery from the kitchen to the tents. We promise a remarkable Hajj in 2024, Insha Allah.”
Regarding transportation, the Mutawwif chairman pointed out that arrangements had been made to increase the frequency of shuttle buses between Mina, Muzdalifa, Arafat, and Makkah to address previous transportation issues.
He assured that the bus services would operate 24 hours to accommodate pilgrims.
Sindi further assured that despite investments and financial commitments to modernise and improve services, pilgrims and Hajj missions would not bear additional financial burdens.
“While we have committed a significant investment to upgrade services, pilgrims can expect reduced or unchanged charges. Our aim is to ensure a memorable Hajj in 2024, Insha Allah,” the Mutawwif chairman assured.
Addressing issue of refunds for services not rendered during the 2023 Hajj, Sindi promised that the necessary reimbursements would be made.