By Abu MazeedatilKhayr Bn Sa’eed
I listened to some Muslim commentators complaining bitterly about the stress and pain of this year hajj operation and I felt the need to make a few comments, as a stakeholder in the industry.
I sincerely appreciate some people for speaking out frankly as “passengers” without blaming either the private tour operators or any of the state pilgrim Boards for the plight of pilgrims in Makkah. It is very rare that a Nigerian pilgrim would display such a high level of objectivity.
However, I take exception to the multiple blames heaped on NAHCON ( The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria) for the plight of Nigerian pilgrims both at home and in Saudi Arabia. For example, I see no reason why the failure of the Arik Charter flight could be solely hung on this regulating body; after all, the choice of Arik as a pre-dominant carrier flight of Tour operators is solely that of the Tour operators.
When the association of Tour operators, otherwise known as AHOUN, chose to fly their pilgrims on the charter Arik for the fear of confronting the exorbitant cost of the International regular flight and perhaps to maximize profits, NAHCON wasn’t there to benefit anything; but merely to help facilitate the Contract and the requisite payment through the Central Bank of Nigeria.
So, if Arik failed or had reneged on its contract with AHOUN, for whatever reason, how does that become the fault of NAHCON? It takes the ingenuity of a smart business manager to understand the risks and prospects of any decision he takes on his investment. Tour operators had probably taken the cognizance of the prospect alone.
Generally, charter flights are hardly consistent in Hajj operations; moreso, this particular carrier called the Arik Air, which is widely known in Nigeria for its inconsistency and frequent changes in local flight schedules, shouldn’t have been trusted by any licenced operator in the country.
I would rather choose to fly the international regular flight with my pilgrims and pay higher than facing the challenges of emotional trauma, mental torture and the stress endured by some Tour operators and their passengers. I believe strongly that these challenges are not only predictable, but they’re also avoidable.
As we all know, a regular flight is a scheduled flight that flies at regular intervals, where the airline usually has a contract with the destination airport to fly there. The flight doesn’t need a target to go, not flexible, it goes as per schedule to its regular destination.
But a charter flight, such as this Arik Air, is an irregular flight, usually subject to certain targets, like number of passengers or cargo in order to go, and they can be uncontracted so they request clearance to fly to destinations per trip. With this kind of arrangement, there’s a tendency of occasional disappointment.
Moreover, with its antecedent in local operation, I didn’t anticipate any better service delivery from Arik Air, which explained my sense of caution and restraint from the onset. The AHOUN Aviation Committee expended so much energy for success, but the applaudable dexterity of the committee was betrayed by the Airline.
So, if the leadership of AHOUN had failed to speculate right on the risk involved in engaging a charter flight for it’s members’ Hajj operation, the association shouldn’t hesitate to work gallantly towards assuaging the pain caused by its decision; and this is best achieved through a well initiated litigation against the Airline.
The Nigerian pilgrims’ experience in Mashaair is another point of concern to all of us, including the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria; and like the aviation challenge, NAHCON suffers the blame of the negligence committed by the Saudi Service Hajj Providers. With my own moral conscience, I can only express my sympathy for the Chairman of NAHCON who continues to work, but not appreciated.
If the pilgrims had blamed the Tour operators and their Boards for the lack of efficiency, the Tour Operators and the State pilgrims Boards have held NAHCON accountable for the failure of others. But will NAHCON be bold enough to call the Saudi Service providers to account for treating Nigerian pilgrims with ignominy?
It’s a pathetic sight to behold in Muna and A’rafah, as pilgrims endured unnecessary stress, despite the huge amount paid for the anticipated service of the spiritual luxury of Hajj. I suggest that the National Hajj Commission should seek a refund from the service providers on the services paid for, but which were not rendered.
The Islamic worship system, including the Hajj rites, requires patience (الصبر), Faith (الايمان), piety (التقوى) and a deep sense of endurance (تَحمُّل); but certainly, stress and sufferings are not expected in any form of worship prescribed by Allah. Muslims are enjoined to worship Allah with ease and not in pain.Therefore, when pilgrims suffer to observe the rite of Hajj in the holy land; it has thus become any other act, but a worship system prescribed by Allah:
يريد الله بكم اليسر ولا يريد بكم العسر ….
“Allah wants ease for you and He doesn’t want difficulty for you…”.(2:185)
Abu MazeedatilKhayr Bn Sa’eed
CEO, Crisp Leisure Travels and Tour – Nigeria
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