NATIONAL HAJJ COMMISSION OF NIGERIA (NAHCON)
SOME ACHIEVEMENTS OF 4TH BOARD FROM INCEPTION TO DATE
NAHCON’s management under the leadership of Zikrullah Kunle Hassan came into office at a difficult time in world history when Covid-19 pandemic threw the world into disarray. The formal handing over from the 3rd NAHCON Board to the 4th took place on the 13th of February 2020.
Despite the COVID-19 impediments, the new Board was able to make significant progress on some of the targets it arrived on ground with. It is now over one year sine the Zikrullah Board took over management of Hajj House, what are the successes recorded so far? The answers are straight forward and visible as highlighted below:
1.0 Hajj Savings Scheme
Hajj Savings Scheme has been a plan nurtured by the past leaderships of the Commission, it is the Zikrullah-led board that however brought it to fruition. By the time the fourth board took over, the immediate predecessor had moved the effort to an advanced stage. The new board sought advice of Governors, the Royal Fathers and other major stakeholders to realize this noble goals.
Section 7 of the NAHCON’s Establishment Act 2006, mandates the Commission to Establish Hajj Savings Scheme to be operated by States under the supervision of a Board of Trustees that will be answerable to the Board of the Commission.
The Commission, on 10th September, 2020, signed an agreement with Jaiz Bank to drive the bank-led option saving scheme. The scheme will increase financial inclusion and contribute significantly to the economic empowerment drive of this administration.
Thus, the long awaited Hajj Savings Scheme was subsequently successfully launched in the six geo-political zones of the country, namely:
i. Kano State for the North-West (on 4th October 2020)
ii. Lagos State for the South-West
iii. EdoState for the South-South
iv. Ebonyi State for the South-East
v. Nasarawa State for the North Central and;
vi. Bauchi State for the North–East (on 25thMarch 2021).
Thereafter, the Commission embarked on robust campaigns and sensitization of the general Muslim public for acceptability of the Scheme in our society. The Commission interacted with some prominent personalities in the society such as traditional title holders and clerics for support and cooperation.
Jaiz Bank, being one of the Islamic and interest-free banks in Nigeria was prudently engaged for two-year (renewable) based on advice of the Central Bank of Nigeria, pending when the Commission will obtain its license from the CBN after concluding necessary formalities and due process.
1.1 The scheme, which has been in practice by the Malaysian Tabung Hajj for over sixty years, has the following advantages:
– To provide sharia compliant investment product for intending pilgrims to save towards performing Hajj while earning returns on their investment.
– Will facilitate effective planning and management of Hajj in Nigeria through making long-term arrangements with carriers, accommodation providers, etc. which will stabilize the system as well as bring down costs of the services for intending pilgrims.
– The scheme provides a transparent queueing system for selecting intending pilgrims qualified for each year’s Hajj slot.
– Make it easier for Muslims in Nigeria to perform Hajj through gradual savings and conveniently plan their Hajj in advance.
– The scheme shall ease Hajj enrolment for Nigerian pilgrims in such a way that even the poorest among Muslims can afford to fulfil a lifetime ambition to perform Hajj through gradual savings
– Enhance the economic capacity of Muslims through financial inclusion.
The scheme is expected to contribute positively to the country’s economic development.
As of January, 2021, more than fifty thousand Nigerian Muslims registered their interest and saved millions of naira as patronage to the scheme.
2.0 Financial Independence in Onshore – Offshore Operations
NAHCON had engaged the partnership of private investors in developing its landed properties across the country in order to turn its fallow assets into income generating ventures.
The board resolved to intensify drive for Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) through the facilitation of Infrastructure Concession and Regulatory Commission, ICRC, for Public Private Partnership (PPP). By developing some of NAHCON’s Hajj Camps and landed properties so that they become economically functional all-year round instead of only during Hajj periods, the PPP will facilitate in improving the Commission’s IGR to the tune of estimated two hundred million naira (N200m) as internally generated revenue. By the time the outcome of the partnership is realised, the Commission hopes to become independent of Federal Government funding on its entire Hajj operations for both onshore and offshore activities. It was able to fund its offshore operations in 2019 and proposes to the same for the future offshore components.
3.0 INCREMENTAL ACHIEVEMENT:
3.1 Hajj Development Levy Projects:
For work on Hajj Development Levy project to accelerate, immediately after assumption of office, the NAHCON Chairman/CEO invited all contractors handling the Hajj Development Levy projects for assessment of job carried out. The Chairman/CEO and his team then followed up this meeting with on-the-spot assessment of structures. The buildings are intended to be conducive for screening of pilgrims during Hajj operations and at the same time, be a source of revenue generation for the Hajj industry during off peak periods.
The Hajj Development Levy was introduced as an alternative source of funding capital expenditure for Hajj. The fund was set up to primarily fund infrastructure, education of pilgrims and to support health services to Nigerian pilgrims going on Hajj.
4.0 Establishment of Digital Economy Centre:
The Commission, in collaboration with National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) has established Digital Economy Centre (DEC), which would serve as e-learning Centre ahead of the take-off of the Proposed Hajj Institute whose establishment has reached an advanced stage. NAHCON’s digital transformation agenda is targeted to:
– Enhance operational efficiency;
To key into the Saudi digitalization of Hajj process and:
– Improve Customer Engagement among others.
Towards this end, the Commission had successfully launched a Digital Transformation Master Plan. The project is a complete automation of process and procedures as well as human capacity development in line with NITDA e-Government Strategy to attain high efficiency in delivery services to Nigerian Pilgrims.
4.1 At present, the Commission has accomplished the following areas of the project.
– Deployment of Financial Software System/Automation of NAHCON’s Account/Financial Activities (98% Completion)
– Deployment and complete setup of Data Economic Centre (DEC) in collaboration with NITDA.
– Deployment of smart system for Licensing & Registration of Hajj Travel Agencies (70% completion)
– Deployment and adoption of the Digital Transformation Master Plan.
Upon completion of this important project, the Human Resources Management System, the Secretariat Management System and the E-Library System will be incorporated into the automation to achieve maximum efficiency and effectiveness from these systems.
5.0 Capacity Building:
The Zikrullah board realizes the imperative of having a vibrant and efficient workforce therefore the issue of staff welfare and capacity building are adequately receiving the desired attention. From beginning of the year 2021 to date, a total of 25 capacity building trainings have been organized for staff of the Commission and still counting . These trainings are designed to keep staff updated and prepared for when the world would resume Hajj and Umrah operations in full.
5.1 Conducting Retreats:
The first retreat under the fourth board was held in Yankari, Bauchi state from 25th to 29th of November 2020. It was a study retreat designed to allow participants to brainstorm in serenity on modern managerial system and technological advancement to collectively find ways of improving Hajj operations in Nigeria.
Specifically, the retreat aimed to familiarize the then new board with the operations of National Hajj Commission, as well as to specify the roles and responsibilities of each stakeholder in the management and affairs of the Commission.
The tranquil environment provided by Yankari Games Resort was selected for participants to de-stress from the usual rush of Abuja city for a chance to look at alternative ways of generating revenue without impacting negatively on the purse of pilgrims. Participants drew insights from historical submissions presented during discussions to guide an understanding and appreciation of how past leaders navigated through major difficulties.
After robust deliberations on identified challenges, the participants broke into groups with the task of formulating new strategies, guidelines and approaches to the identified challenges.
6.0 Opening of new Outreach Centres
To decongest the headquarters and reenergize the Zones, NAHCON’s fourth board reopened the former five zonal offices namely Maiduguri, Kano, Ilorin, Lagos, Port Harcourt and created an additional Zonal Office in Sokoto bringing the total number to Six (6). Outreach centres were established in Bauchi, Kaduna, Abuja and Yola in order to boost NAHCON operations and service delivery to the pilgrims.
Creation of outreach bases is to address certain challenges and current security situation in the country, to ease administration and save costs of traveling to headquarter in Abuja no matter how small the issue might be.
Before reopening the centres, NAHCON management visited the centres were the Zonal Offices were located to assess the current drive of the Commission in revamping all the facilities at the Zonal Offices. The zonal offices play vital roles as those directly in charge of departure centre officers and the Liaison Officers in charge of the outreach centres. The outreach centres report to the Zonal Officers in the NAHCON hierarchy.
7.0 Proposed International Hajj Centre/Institute
Pursuant to the provisions of Section 4 (1)g of the NAHCON Establishment Act 2006 which empowers the Commission to “… conduct educative and enlightenment campaigns on Hajj and Umra, in all the States of the Federation, and the Federal Capital Territory…” and the provisions of Section (i) which empowers it to “… do such other things as are conducive or incidental to the discharge of the foregoing functions, provided that this subsection shall not be interpreted to be conferring any additional functions on the Commission”; The Commission has initiated a process of establishing an International Hajj Centre which shall serve as a hub for Hajj and Umrah related matters and also generate income.
The Centre is hoped to train Hajj Managers, a resource centre for Hajj and Umrah related scholarly activities, a hub for Travel Agencies involved in Hajj and Umrah as well as an ICT hub for developing Hajj and Umrah related solutions.
8.0 Renovation of NAHCON Headquarters (Hajj House)
The NAHCON’s acquired property is facing significant transformation from its former looks of Metro plaza. Thus far, the new ultra-modern conference hall has since been completed and in use. A state-of-the-art reception hall, as well as a digital economy centre has all been completed. Another ambitious project that has reached 60% completion is the 500 person Juma’at mosque within the NAHCON premises.
The Sultan of Sokoto, and President-General, Nigerian Supreme Council For Islamic Affairs, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar iii, CFR, mni, on the 24th February 2020 laid foundation for the construction of the mosque.
This is not to mention the degree of work being witnessed in the office complex, which all involve standard equipment being deployed for durability and staff safety.
9.0 Revolutionary Reform and Digitalization of Umrah Industry in Nigeria:
A 15-man Standing Committee on Umrah was set up by the Commission for constant evaluation of quality service delivery to pilgrims. The standing committee will always be in place to ensure that pilgrims are maximally protected, it will assess ongoing Umrah operations, address issues as they arise and make proposal to management on policy adjustment that will capture current and emerging trend as well as proposing policy changes to be in tune with existing realities, and superintending on all Umrah related matters and other incidental issues.
The Committee has mapped out current digital trends in Saudi Arabia in relation to Umrah and is looking at the direct and indirect impact of smartphone revolution on Umrah operations. Among the scope of the study is implication of ill-preparedness, risks of lagging and developing effective response methods to the changing realities. Members were assigned various research areas on the how to meet up with the emerging digital trends.
The Umrah committee is working on how to improve flow of information to the public from Licensed Tour Operators (LTOs), the Commission and all others that may be connected to Umrah in Nigeria. It was observed that lack of adequate information on Umrah packages, time of movement and other vital details impede smooth Umrah operations. The necessity of intending pilgrims to know which services they are paying for and to sign undertaking on that will form part of the new policies that will be reviewed.
Similarly, the Umrah sector will soon have its online registration portal with similar functions to the Hajj e-track platform which captures data of all Hajj pilgrims from Nigeria. This means that NAHCON shall soon start data gathering of all pilgrims that travel on Umrah visa the data of which would be used to provide insights for potential improvements within a system. Thus, in liaison with the Nigerian Immigration Service, the data will show time a pilgrim leaves for Saudi Arabia and the person’s due return date. Visa violators will easily be detected, and the relevant penalties shall be imposed on the travel agent that facilitated the pilgrim’s journey.
So far, the Commission has received Federal Government’s approval to establish NAHCON Offices/Desks at all Airports in the country for the effective coordination and supervision of Umrah and Hajj operations.
Anti-Corruption & Transparency Unit (ACTU) as the name implies is one of the implementation mechanisms for the corruption prohibition and prevention mandates of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences (ICPC). To ensure transparency and mitigation of corrupt practices in Hajj industry in Nigeria, the Commission, in liaison with ICPC inaugurated the anti-corrupt unit ACTU in the NAHCON Headquarters. Members appointed to pilot the exercise charged with responsibility to ensure diligence, fairness and honesty in the course of their assignment without fear or favour.
11.0 Refund of 2020 Hajj fare to pilgrims who desire a refund:
The board effectively oversaw refund of the 2020 Hajj fare to intending pilgrims who signified interest in collecting their deposit. However, only 5% out of the total number of pilgrims for 2020 requested for the refund.
12.0 Covid-19 Awareness Campaign on Television, Radio and Print Media:
The Commission has embarked upon rigorous enlightenment campaign programs through different mediums. The programs meant to further educate pilgrims on Hajj rites, interaction with other nationals in Saudi Arabia as well as covid-19 protocols etc.
The Television program, titled “As you Answer the Call” which has an average of one hundred and fifty (150) million viewers around the globe is aired on the NTA Network, every Monday, between 10:00pm -10:30pm (GMT +1).
The radio programs, titled “Hajj: A spiritual Journey” and “Hajj in Focus” which are aired in English on the Network Service of Radio Nigeria, every Friday at 12:30pm (GMT+1) has an estimated seventy (70) million listeners. It is also aired in various Nigerian local languages by a number of radio stations, such as Radio Nigeria Kaduna, Bond FM, Lagos and Treasure FM, Port-Harcourt.
13.0 Refund of Registration and Caution Deposits to Licenced Tour Operators:
Considering that Hajj and Umrah did not take place in 2020, NAHCON management refunded Licenced Tour Operators their license and caution deposits. The Commission had successfully processed and secured refund for 96 companies to cushion the cash crunch caused by covid-19 pandemic.
14.0 Construction of Staff Clinic:
The Zikrullah board is set to establish a staff clinic in the Hajj House headquarters of the Commission in Abuja. This considerate development for staff welfare has been described as long overdue and the Chairman/CEO commended for the bold step in this face of meagre resources. Apart from sustaining staff welfare, it was observed that the clinic could also be used as an additional source of revenue for the Commission in future.
Work to ensure take-off of the clinic has already commenced with an expected delivery period of mid-December 2021. While inaugurating the clinic committee on 28th September, 2021 in the Hajj House, the Chairman/CEO, Alhaji Zikrullah Kunle Hassan disclosed that the clinic is to serve the staff and their families because a healthy workforce is a productive one. Due to his concern for staff welfare, the NAHCON Chairman emphasized to the committee members that their most important term of reference is to ensure that the clinic takes off by the designated period.
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