The Independent Hajj Reporters (IHR), a Civil Society Organisation (CSO), has urged the National Assembly to amend the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) Act to ensure a more effective Hajj operating system in Nigeria.

In a statement made on Monday in Makkah, Saudi Arabia, IHR National Coordinator Malam Ibrahim Muhammed highlighted the need for the amendment to address gaps in policy and service delivery, particularly in light of the recent adjustments to the Hajj policy and calendar by the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Hajj.

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Muhammed pointed out that Nigeria, with an allocation of 95,000 slots, is the fifth largest Hajj participating country and the first in Africa. However, unlike other top Hajj countries, Nigeria does not operate a centralized system but a three-tier system (Federal, State, and Local Governments).

He emphasized that countries like Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iran, Turkey, Afghanistan, Morocco, and Malaysia have a unified and central control Hajj administration, allowing them to efficiently run five to six-year Hajj rolling plans.

Muhammed criticized the current decentralized system in Nigeria, where local government pilgrims officers register pilgrims, and state Muslim pilgrims welfare boards manage the funds before transferring them to NAHCON.

He described this process as time-consuming and bureaucratic.

He also dismissed recent calls for the decentralization of NAHCON and devolving powers to the states as a wrong move. According to him, decentralization would result in 36 different delegations and agreements with Saudi Arabia, complicating the process and potentially causing chaos.

Regarding service delivery, Muhammed noted that while NAHCON controls airlines and accommodation in Madina, state boards are responsible for accommodations in Makkah.

He argued that having pilgrims pay deposits directly to NAHCON would streamline the process and ensure timely fulfillment of obligations.

Muhammed concluded that this amendment would hold NAHCON accountable and improve overall service delivery for Nigerian pilgrims.