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Hajj: How kolanuts, passports posed challenges to us –NAHCON

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20240526 185819

National Hajj Commission of Nigeria, NAHCON, on Sunday, identified discovery of kolanuts in some pilgrims’ luggage and misplacement of passports by others, as major challenges being faced during this year’s Hajj operations.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, KSA, had in 2016 notified Nigerian authorities to ban the carrying of kolanuts by pilgrims during the annual pilgrimage, which NAHCON confirmed in a statement issued ahead of that year’s Hajj and advised them to adhere strictly to the Saudi rules and regulations on prohibited items.

Speaking to journalists covering the Hajj exercise while receiving pilgrims from Lagos and Osun States at the Mohammed bin AbdulAziz International Airport, Madina, the Head of National Reception Team in the holy city, Laraban Abdullahi, lamented that the issues of kolanuts and passports, always cause delay for the pilgrims and officials at the airport.

“The major challenges we are facing with pilgrims is when a pilgrim is cleared in Nigeria airport, some of them would mistakenly put their passport in their hand luggage and on arrival here, their luggage will be moved from the aircraft to the buses while he will be there yet to be cleared by the Saudi authorities.

“(Under such development), they will not be cleared by the Saudis, because it is not possible. That will make us to stay more than necessary because we have to go back to the buses, identify his bags. At times the bag may have been moved to town. We have to go to town and get his passport and bring it back before the Saudi government clears him. Those are the only issue that we have.

“And some will come with kolanuts. You know the Saudi government is discouraging people from coming with kolanuts. These are the major issues. We always the state pilgrims coordinators to always discourage the pilgrims from coming with kolanuts, because that is what is giving us some delay (at the airport),” he stressed.

The team leader, however, expressed happiness that both the NAHCON and Saudi authorities had smooth working relationship, adding that there had also been cooperation between the commission and the pilgrims.

Commenting on the general operations, Abdullahi informed that the new dimension introduced by the NAHCON chairman, Malam Jalal Arabi, in collaboration with the Saudi government on 45 grouping among the pilgrims, was working perfectly, besides the orientation given them in Nigeria and encouragement for the staff to discharge their duties effectively.

He said: “The chairman, in collaboration with Saudi government, introduced the 45 grouping in which pilgrims from Nigeria will group themselves into 45 numbers each. As they reach the airport here, they will enter their buses in a group of 45.

“It gives us a seamless work; it helps in the free movement of pilgrims. It won’t take us more than 45 minutes to clear about 500 from the airport into their buses. As the pilgrims arrived they are entering their buses.

“So far, we have been enjoying a friendly working relationship. If there is any issue, they let us know no or guide us, they call our attention and we follow whatever directive they give us and that makes us to have understanding and cooperation between ourselves.”

Despite the identified challenges, he reiterated the commitment of NAHCON to ensure a stress-free holy pilgrimage for all the pilgrims.

“We want all the pilgrims to be happy with the commission. So far, I know that we have not had any issue and we want our pilgrims to perform their Hajj as provided in the Holy Qur’an and let them achieve what they are here for,” Abdullahi said.

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