The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) is worried over the low turnout of intending pilgrims for registration ahead of the 2018 pilgrimage exercise.
This was disclosed yesterday at a sensitization meeting held in Lagos for southwest stakeholders comprising Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, and the Armed Forces.
National Commissioner in Charge of Policy, Personnel, Management and Finance, Alhaji Yusuf Ibrahim said the Saudi Arabian authorities had mandated countries to conclude Hajj preparations immediately after Shaaban (8th month of the Islamic calendar).
According to him, most intending pilgrims usually pay after Ramadan (9th month). He advised the intending pilgrims to endeavour to pay on time, saying the difference in fare is not going to be much from that of last year.
He however advised intending pilgrims to pay their money before the end of March to aid early preparations especially in view of the various policies newly introduced by the authorities.
He said the Saudi Arabia has also introduced five per cent Value Added Tax (VAT) on all goods purchased in the Kingdom.
Ibrahim said, "First and foremost, the Saudi authorities have told us that immediately after Shaaban, all preparations about Hajj should be concluded.
"Nigerians don’t normally pay until after Ramadan. So we want to educate them that when you plan early, you achieve better result. Saudi will not wait for Nigeria because Hajj is being performed all over the world.
"So we have to key into that system to educate our people to pay their money before Shawwal because after Shawwal you can’t perform the Hajj again."
The Executive Secretary of Lagos State Muslim Pilgrims Welfare, Mr. Mufutau Okoya also noted that the turnout in the state has been so poor but he is confident that the state would still meet the 3000 pilgrims’ target.
The commission has therefore commenced aggressive sensitization campaign across states of the federation on the imperative of early registration for the annual pilgrimage exercise.