Hajj 2020: Group urges NAHCON, Boards to begin refund to intending pilgrims

NEWS DIGEST – A civil society organization, the Independent Hajj Reporters, has called on the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria, NAHCON and State Pilgrim Welfare Boards to begin the refund of the 2020 hajj fares to intending pilgrims, as Saudi Arabia banned international pilgrimage due to COVID-19.

Recall that the Kingdom had said only 10,000 pilgrims would be allowed to observe 2020 hajj exercise as the authorities puts in place strict health protocols and guidelines that must be followed during the period.

A statement by the coordinator of the pro-hajj group, Ibrahim Mohammed, on Wednesday, advised NAHCON to summon stakeholders meeting to discuss the way forward for Hajj and Umrah industry in Nigeria.

According to him, the meeting should involve all Hajj stakeholders like, airliners, Immigration Service, Customs, Ulama, NCAA, Hajj technocrats, private tour operators, Saudi Arabian embassy in Nigeria, Civil Societies and Financial institutions.

“NAHCON should also put machinery in motion to educate Hajj 2020 pilgrims on the need for them to defer their Hajj to 2021 in order to lessen the burden of going through cancelling and re-registration of same pilgrims for Hajj 2021,” he said.

Speaking about the private Hajj and Umrah pilgrims, the civil society acknowledged the challenges faced by private Hajj companies in view of the fact that most of them have made a financial commitment to Saudi Arabian based Hajj services providers and may not have the requisite financial power to affect a full refund to their prospective pilgrims.

He, therefore, advised NAHCON to carry out wide consultations on how to assist the registered private tour operators in overcoming the obvious operational challenges birthed by the banning of international pilgrims from participating in Hajj 2020.

Mr Ibrahim recalled that countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, Britain, South Africa, and Singapore had opted out of the Hajj 2020 before Saudi Arabia announced its decision.