On Thursday last week, the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON)launched one of the most-awaited items on the Nigerian Muslim Agenda – the Hajj Savings Scheme (HSS), a historic milestone in the Commission’s masterplan and a scheme that has taken many years to build.
Although it is said ‘better late than never’, a savings scheme like this should have been in place for at least since the Hajj business began in Nigeria, and that was a long time ago.
But alhamdu lilLah, NAHCON has finally made it on this all-important scheme that could see to the revolutionising of the affairs of Nigerian pilgrimage, as well as providing a needed impetus to make Muslims inculcate the habit and mindset of saving the halal way.
As expected, Ja’iz Bank, Nigeria’s premier Islamic financial institution, has been selected to manage the HSS on behalf of the Commission.
Therefore, the launching and signing of agreement between NAHCON and Ja’iz Bank nine days ago were important steps towards a long and hopefully successful endeavour.
The Hajj Savings Scheme, according to the Commission,will create an avenue for intending Nigerian Muslim pilgrims to save towards fulfilling one of the pillars of Islam; going on Hajj (pilgrimage to the holy lands of Makkah and Madina).
The scheme provides for intending pilgrims to go for Hajj from Nigeria, irrespective of their income, locality and status.
The scheme shall assist low income earners and the general public to save at their convenience towards meeting their goal of going on pilgrimage.
Modelled after Malaysia’s Tabung Haji (TH), which has been in existence for over half a century, the Nigerian version has avision of creating a platform that will ease Hajj enrolment for Nigerian pilgrims in such a way that even the poorest Muslim will have the opportunity of performing Hajj through self-sponsorship.
This will be made possible through a gradual deposit of monies that will be invested on behalf of the depositor until it reaches the desired amount for Hajj fare.
Launching the scheme September 10, both NAHCON Chairman Barrister Zikrullah Kunle Hassan and Ja’az Bank Chairman Alhaji Umaru Mutallab were full of hope, and satisfaction, that Allah has made it possible, through their agency, for this scheme to come on stream in their (and our) lifetime, praying Allah to bless the initiative and the funds to be managed therefrom.
The idea to set up a Hajj Pilgrims Savings Scheme in Malaysia, which brought Tabung Haji,was triggered by a proposal made by in 1959 by renowned Malay economist, Professor Abdul Aziz Abdul Hamid,to the Malaysian Federal Government for the establishment of such a venture.
And the government accepted – and Tabung Haji was born. Now, 61 years later, Nigeria is following suit.
Prior to the establishment of Tabung Haji in Malaysia, there was no Islamic financial institution that provided services to the country’s Muslim population to save for hajj expenses.
Even though several banks were already operating, the Muslims were reluctant to use conventional banking for their hajj savings because they wanted to ensure that their hajj savings were free from riba (usury) in order to attain a Mabrur Hajj.
Malaysia’s TH, which began in September 1963, grew from three bank branches to over a hundred branches; from 1,281 initial depositors in 1963 to over 9million depositors today, plus over 1.8 billion dollars in revenue.
It has 125 branches and more than 10,000 touch-points, as they call micro-branches.
The target of Nigeria’s Hajj Savings Scheme is to achieve and surpass this. NAHCON believes it is achievable in view of the numerical advantage Nigeria enjoys relative to Malaysia’s.
Tabung Haji has today become a gigantic economic and financial institution adding value to the economy of Muslims and facilitating the performance of Hajj for the poor who could save, little by little, over many years to be able to fulfil this fifth pillar of Islam – pilgrimage.
Monies deposited under the Nigerian HSS will be invested in Shari’a compliant ventures with profits credited to the depositor according to Islamic formula of profit sharing.
The Commission’s prognosis is that, with Hajj Savings Scheme, the future of pre-planned Hajj is here.
On the part of Hajj administrators, a pre-planned Hajj will facilitate Hajj arrangement years in advance.
It will be goodbye to projective planning (for unspecified number of people) due to delay in Hajj fare remittance.
A pre-planned Hajj on the part of the depositor means an investor may select the year he or she plans to undertake the Hajj trip regardless of the fact the required amount had been met.
The depositor’s profit will continue to accrue notwithstanding.
Pre-planned Hajj means an intending pilgrim does not have to sell himself into poverty due to yearning to worship His Lord on Arafat day, but to save gradually and patiently for his turn.
With pre-planned Hajj, priority for Hajj slots will be given to depositors under the scheme on the basis of first-comers whose funds had reached the required amount.
For example, if Nigeria’s allocated slot is 95,000 and 100,000 have qualified, priority will be given to the first 95 that have met the target if they desire to perform the Hajj that year.
The remaining depositors will then be rolled-over to subsequent years. Of course, the cash and carry Hajj slot will still be available, but with conditions.
The HSS is expected to contribute to the Nigerian economy in various ways such as utilizing otherwise dormant funds and through tax generation.
It is also a means of empowering state pilgrims’ welfare boards with revenue for maximum productivity.
Hopefully, zakat that will accrue from the profits will be used as social safety net to serve the Muslim community and by extension, the Nigerian public.
The scheme is currently coming in collaboration with Ja’iz bank during this first phase.
At a later time when all necessary governmental procedures are finalised, NAHCON, under HSS trustees, will be sole manager of the scheme.
To enroll, interested persons may do so through their various States’ Muslim Pilgrims’ Welfare Boards, NAHCON Zonal Offices, closest Ja’iz Bank branches or online from the comfort of their rooms through NAHCON website.
It is the hope of Nigerian Muslims that NAHCON’ s HSS will perfectly mirror Malaysia’s TH in strengthening the economy of the Ummah, consolidating and enriching depositors’ funds and, ultimately, facilitatimg and assisting pilgrims achieve a Hajj Mabrur. In sha Allah.