Nigeria, Saudi sign MoU, retain 95,000 slots for pilgrims in 2020 hajj – NAHCON
The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) said on Saturday that it has retained its 95,000 slots for intending pilgrims for the 2020 hajj.
NAHCON made the disclosure in a statement made available to newsmen by its Head of Public Affairs, Fatima Usara, in Abuja.
Usara said the agreement was reached during the signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Nigeria’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Zubairu Dada and the Saudi Arabian Minister of Hajj and Umrah Affairs, Saleh Benten.
She said that the MoU was signed on Dec. 5, preparatory to the 2020 hajj exercise.
“Prior to the signing of MoU, Ambassador Dada had conveyed President Muhammadu Buhari’s gratitude to King Salman Bin AbdulAziz and the Saudi Arabian authorities for compensating families of the five dead and six injured Nigerians in the 2015 crane crash accident in Makkah” she said.
“He expressed the president’s gratitude for the hospitality and support being enjoyed by Nigerian pilgrims in Saudi Arabia,” the statement said.
She also quoted the minister as further conveying the president’s request to Saudi Arabia to assist NAHCON in every way possible, and to support its regulatory role in terms of pilgrims’ airlift to the Kingdom.
The representative of the acting Chairman of NAHCON, who is the acting Commissioner of Operations, Abdullahi Saleh, expressed appreciation to the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah Affairs for their continued support and cooperation.
On their part, the Saudi Arabian minister, who led the country’s delegation in the signing ceremony, said that Nigeria had witnessed tremendous progress in hajj and Umrah operations.
“Part of the agreement reached for the 2020 hajj includes a strong reminder on the e-track registration guideline. The leader of the Saudi delegation re-emphasised that the Saudi Ministry of Hajj would not recognise any contractual agreement or payment done outside the e-track portal”.
“Such is considered illegal and will not be recognised by the Kingdom” she said.
She said that the information was disclosed by the Vice Minister of Hajj and Umrah Affairs, Dr Abdul Fatah Mishat, during a technical discussion session preparatory to the signing of the MoU.
“Part of the agreement also was that pilgrims could pay an optional 100 Saudi Riyals or more as insurance cover for any accidents, loss of property and other risks they may face while on Hajj. However, this does not include medical care as the Kingdom grants free healthcare to every pilgrim while in the Holy Land”.
“On the clarification on visa fees, the delegation declared that the amount charged is 300 Riyals for all types of visas” he said.
Mishat added that the validity of the Umrah and visit (tourism) visas did not extend to the hajj period, adding “Issuance of such visas ends shortly before the onset of Hajj season.”
He also commended NAHCON for its efforts in controlling visa violation and pilgrims absconding in the Kingdom.
The vice minister, who informed the NAHCON delegation that the new policies would be conveyed to the commission through the ministry’s official platform, called for more collaboration between the commission’s ICT unit and that of the ministry.
He assured NAHCON that the Kingdom would construct additional 60,000 toilets in order to address the shortage of toilets during hajj operations.