National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) has charged states’ pilgrim boards and travel agencies involved in the 2018 hajj operations to commence early arrangements for biometric data capturing of their intending pilgrims.
The commission said currently, 3 centres have been designated in Abuja, Kano and Lagos for the biometric registration of intending pilgrims even as it announced that plans were on to extend the centres.
NAHCON’S director of personnel, policy management and finance, Dr. Yusuf Adebayo Ibrahim said this in Ilorin at a sensitisation programme for stakeholders on Saudi Arabia new policies on hajj operation.
Ibrahim said the commission and the federal government were prevailing on the Saudi Arabia authorities to excuse pilgrims from Nigeria in the biometric capturing this year but insisted that stakeholders must start early preparations to capture intending pilgrims.
He said in the event where the Saudi Arabian authorities did not yield to pressure, stakeholders must avoid a situation where intending pilgrims would be subjected to difficulties of last minute rush.
The NAHCON director also cautioned the would be pilgrims against wasteful spending as the Saudi Arabian government had introduced value added tax (VAT) on every items bought in the holy land during the pilgrimage as a way of boosting their economy.
He also warned those willing to stand as guarantors to intending pilgrims to be weary of people that have tendencies to abscond because according to him, ‘‘there is no hiding place for them’’.
Ibrahim allayed the fears raised by some stakeholders on the welfare of pilgrims while in holy land disclosing that Nigeria was rated the 5th best in world in the 2017 hajj exercise by Saudi Arabian rating body .
The sensitisation programme which involved representatives from travel agencies, religious leaders, and associations was interactive with stakeholders asking questions on areas of concerns.
Some of the issues raised by those in attendance included issue of accommodation in Saudi Arabia , deplorable state of facilities at the hajj transit camp in the state ,new tax introduced by Saudi Arabia authorities and hajj fairs.