The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia through its Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has announced that it will restore the number of slots given to Nigeria before COVID-19 outbreak for the 2023 Hajj exercise.
Recall that the holy pilgrimage was suspended to international travellers in 2020 and 2021, while that of 2022 was reduced by half.
This led to Nigeria getting half (45,000) of its previously alloted slots of 90,000.
The Assistant Director, Information and Publications of National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), Mousa Ubandawaki, in a statement on Wednesday, stated that the latest development was made known by the Director General in charge of Saudi Arabia’s Hajj Missions at the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, Bahauddeen bin Yusuf Alwani
Bahauddeen during a preparatory meeting for the 2023 Hajj via a video conference with the Chairman/CEO of NAHCON, Alhaji Zukrullah Kunle Hassan, added that guidelines released for the 2023 Hajj by the Ministry include the removal of age barrier or limit and cancellation of PCR test.
“The Ministry has also granted the commission the right of choice of package for pilgrims services from the Mutawwiffs of African Non-Arab countries, the company responsible for the tent, feeding and transportation arrangements at the Mashair.
“In addition, the Ministry also stated that henceforth any payment to service providers must be through the e-track or e-wallet platforms as the Kingdom will not take responsibilities for payment outside the two platforms,” the statement said.
He added that agreement on accommodation would be concluded by February 10 and others by February 24.
“Details of the discussion included that information on the choice of airliners approved by the commission for the airlift operations and their allocation must be submitted early enough to fast-track the Hajj 2023 preparation,” the statement added.
In his response, the NAHCON boss expressed appreciation to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the early preparation and restoring the country’s Hajj allocation.
He said that it was heartwarming that the Kingdom through the Ministry of Hajj had restored the hope and confidence of many prospective Nigerian pilgrims that desired to perform the Hajj next year.
The chairman, however, appealed to the Ministry to allow the commission handle the feeding management during the Mashair activities in order to serve Nigerian pilgrims better than what obtained during the 2022 Hajj by the Mutawwiffs.