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Hajj: Nigeria kicks over poor services in Mina, demands refund

The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) has demanded a refund from the Saudi firm, Muttawwif, which handled t..

The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) has demanded a refund from the Saudi firm, Muttawwif, which handled the camping tents and the feeding of pilgrims in Mina during the just concluded hajj exercise.

The company is responsible for the welfare of African non-Arabs on pilgrimage in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Many Nigerian pilgrims had on Monday complained of inadequate tents for their accommodation as well as poor feeding in Mina where they spent five days for hajj rites.

The firm later arranged for relocation of 10,000 Nigerian pilgrims to an area earlier reserved for Turkish pilgrims; but some of the state pilgrims’ welfare boards objected owing to distance and other logistics.

Speaking during a stakeholders’ meeting held at the firm’s office in Makkah on Sunday, the chairman of NAHCON, Zikrullahi Kunle Hassan, knocked the firm for subjecting Nigerian pilgrims to hardship.

He urged the company to hands off the feeding of Nigerian pilgrims and remove the country from the present site of tents in Mina.

“Nigerian pilgrims were subjected to untold hardship and they’re so disappointed in us even though we’ve repeatedly told them that the issues of tents and food are not in our hands, that we can only complain to the authorities.

“We’ve argued repeatedly that we can handle catering by ourselves and you can regulate. This is because no matter how much money you spend on food, if you don’t do it the Nigerian way, it will not be eaten and the money is wasted. I’m making this demand on behalf of Nigerian pilgrims and stakeholders. I’m also, on behalf of the Nigerian delegation, demanding a refund for the food that you didn’t supply,” he said.

Hassan disagreed to the firm’s excuse of Mina’s invasion by illegal pilgrims, stressing that, “We’re not in a position to check them or contain them since we’re not in charge of security. That has to be the fault of our hosts.

“The invasion of illegal pilgrims isn’t an excuse because you provided the same capacity of tents as last year despite the fact that we came with 95,000 pilgrims compared to 43,000 pilgrims that we came with last year. Without the issue of illegal pilgrims which is not our fault, the issue of tent inadequacy would still have happened.

“The food came late most of the time. The food wasn’t good enough. It was not cooked in our Nigerian style and taste. The terrible food and the fact that Nigerians rejected it enabled invaders to come in and sell food. And this made the place more chaotic and embarrassing.

“Return feeding to us. We can manage that ourselves. We can screen the caterer and ensure they have Nigerian touch. The food you’ve been giving us have no Nigerian touch at all. Return the food to us and you can regulate. We’re controlling and regulating feeding in Makkah and Madinah. We have choices in Makkah and Madinah, but no choice in Mina,” he said.

President, Association of Hajj and Umrah Operators of Nigeria, Yahaya Sulaiman, accused the company of not being transparent.

“Even if you refund our money, our images that you have destroyed can’t be refunded. Your operations are shrouded in opaqueness, no transparency. We asked for documentary details of how many food and water you are supplying to how many pilgrims, but you never made that available up till now,” he said.

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