A civil society organization, Independent Hajj Reporters (IHR), has urged the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) to reduce the size of Saudi Arabia-based service providers slated for 2024 pilgrimage.
IHR said that engaging over 20 or more service providers during Hajj creates multiple operational challenges for the apex hajj regulatory body and hidden the smooth process of the system.
IHR said the need becomes pertinent to reduce the high cost of Hajj fare against next year occasioned by the rising exchange rate of Dollar to Nigeria currency.
In a statement by the national coordinator of IHR, Ibrahim Mohammad on Tuesday, the group urged NAHCON to consider reducing the number of the service providers to create room for effective coordination and impactful supervision by both the commission and the States.
The CSO, which monitors and reports Hajj and Umrah activities in Nigeria and globally stressed that the call became necessary now that the commission will commence the signing of long-term contracts with services providers.
IHR said Hajj services to Nigerian pilgrims like accommodation, feeding and transportation syndicates should have some elements of uniformity and standard across the board irrespective of states. The CSO said yearly requests for applications, screening and selection of hajj service providers connote more expenses and time-consuming constraints – the two critical challenges currently facing 2024 hajj.
According to IHR, “ One or two accommodation and catering service providers can serve the entire Northern pilgrims given that they share common culture and traditions, especially in the areas of menu and tastes. And one or two others can provide similar service for southern pilgrims using the same parameters.
“Countries with a higher number of pilgrims such as Indonesia, Bangladesh and India utilize fewer service providers and it is the reason why they have efficient crises management control system during hajj operations.”
“More importantly, signing long-term agreements with service providers such as accommodation, catering, and car syndicate providers will create stability in hajj fare templates and also allow such service providers to map out long-term planning which will result in efficient service delivery to Nigerian pilgrims.
“The signing of long-term contracts with Saudi-based service providers will lessen the number of pre-hajj trips undertaken by NAHCON and States since they will only need to travel once for physical inspection of accommodation and catering facilities before the airlift of pilgrims.”
IHR added that the ongoing expansion projects in the Misfalah area of Makkah that has seen many buildings previously used by Nigerian pilgrims demolished will add more pressure on the pilgrim’s accommodation rental price market, hence the need to sign long-term contracts and reduce the numbers of service providers.
It said that NAHCON can embed its taxes and commissions in the long-term contracts to help keep the Nigerian Hajj industry in a self-sustaining mode and reduce the bureaucracy of hajj operations. IHR tasked the commission to provide a caveat that will enable termination of service failure to comply with standard.