The Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III has called for the restoration of Amirul Hajj to better the lots of Nigerians pilgrims in Saudi Arabia for the annual pilgrimage.
He made the call on Friday in Abuja at the opening of a two day National Hajj and Umrah Stakeholder’s Conference and 10th anniversary, themed “Hajj Management in Nigeria: Honouring the past, treasuring the present and shaping the future” organised by the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON).
President Muhammadu Buhari tacitly canceled the Amir Hajj after he announced that there will be no federal government delegation for the 2015 hajj pilgrimage.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, in a statement said the decision will save government an estimated $1m and N30million in local expenses.
The government however said it would sustain consular, medical and welfare support to all pilgrims as expected and would also not fail in its obligations to the citizens in terms pilgrimage regardless of the absence of government delegation.
But the Sultan while opening the stakeholders’ conference at the Abuja National Mosque said the role of the Amirul hajj is important for the thousands of Nigerian Muslims performing the pilgrimage and that this does not mean financing of the government.
The Chairman of the commission Abdullahi Muhammad said NAHCON is to establish a standard training Institute for the training of Hajj managers and handlers.
He said the commission was in the process of kick-starting a Hajj Saving Scheme and the appointment of a Board of Trustees, to enhancing the revenue profile of the commission to ensure its autonomy in the nearest future.
He said the commission has carried out some reforms that resulted in successes for hajj operations in Nigeria.
While listing the reductions and eliminations missing luggage, abscondment of pilgrims and flight delays among others as part of the successes, he added the commission saved $18.6m reduction for accommodations in Makkah ($6.3m) and Madinah ($12.3) respectively.
He assured that the Abuja Metro Plaza approved as the new corporate office of the commission would be judiciously used.
Also, the FCT Minister who was the pioneer Chairman of the commission when the enabling NAHCON Act took effect Muhammad Bello said his experience during his eight-year tenure, shows that hajj operation can continuously be improved upon.
He however said the commission still requires government support due to the involvement of stakeholders including some key government institutions.