25th November, 2010
By Kazeem Ugbodaga
Leader of Nigeriaâ€™s delegation to this yearâ€™s hajj in Saudi Arabia and the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammed Saâ€™ad Abubakar, has apologised to Lagos pilgrims in the holy land over the problems they encountered during this yearâ€™s hajj.
Alhaji Abubakar gave the apology during his visit to the camp of Lagos pilgrims in Mecca.
P.M.NEWS gathered that the pilgrims expressed anger over poor transportation and feeding which was centrally handled by the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria, NAHCON.
Abubakar pleaded with the pilgrims to be patient with the officials of the pilgrims commission and admitted that this yearâ€™s exercise was poorly arranged.
P.M.NEWS gathered that the pilgrims were not happy with the explanations offered by the Sultan on the difficulties experienced by them in the holy land.
Answering questions from pilgrims, the sultan said he heard reports that some of the food contractors, â€œespecially that of Lagos State did not perform well at all.
â€œWe are aware and have put machineries in motion to compensate you.â€
According to him, there are a lot of challenges facing the pilgrims. â€œWe were able to surmount them because there is no problem too much for Allah,â€ he added.
He also allayed fears expressed by some pilgrims about their job in Nigeria over their long stay in Saudi Arabia. â€œNigeria is a secular state; there is no country in the world with so many religions like Nigeria. I can assure you that no employer will sack an employee because he spent two months in hajj,â€ he assured the pilgrims.
He explained further that most of the problems experienced by them were not natural but man-made. â€œThe problem we had was logistics nightmare. This hajj is not the worst and I can still say that it is not the best. Except for the feeding problem, I would have said we had better hajj,â€ he stated.
Abubakar promised that his committee would sit and review the 2010 hajj exercise and identify inherent problems so as to be able to improve on the exercise in the future.
The Amirul hajj also used the opportunity to call for memorandum from states and individuals for the 2011 hajj.
â€œBasically, I donâ€™t see any reason why any pilgrim should stay beyond three weeks in Mecca. It is disheartening that pilgrims will spend over one month in the holy land. If it means getting more airlines and pilgrims paying more fares in future, we shall ensure that pilgrims no longer spend more than three weeks,â€ he assured.
Leader of the Lagos State pilgrims, Commissioner for Home Affairs and Culture, Alhaji Babatunde Balogun, earlier told the Sokoto monarch that the pilgrims had exhausted their resources due to the long delay in their departure.
He called on NAHCON to find a lasting solution to the problem in order to save officials of the Stateâ€™s Pilgrimsâ€™ Welfare Board from mob action. â€œMost often, the situation has become such that the pilgrims are always ready to transfer aggression to our officials, thinking that we are the architects of their long stay here,â€ he added.