Hajj: Saudi Arabia increases Nigeria’s tour operators from 10 to 40

The Saudi Arabia Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has increased the 2024 Hajj slots of Tour Operators from 10 to 40.

This development came following the Federal Government’s demand for an increase in the 2024 Hajj tour operators.

In September, Saudi Arabia announced that only 5% of each Hajj-participating country’s Licensed Tour Operators would be permitted to conduct the 2024 Hajj exercise.

This means that Nigeria will only have 10 slots.

However, the federal government unrelentingly engaged the Saudi Ministry over its course of promoting indigenous entrepreneurs as a tool in sustaining the country’s socioeconomic development.

Responding to the request, the Saudi Ministry in charge of Hajj and Umrah reverted the decision in Nigeria’s favour.

Consequently, the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria, in a press statement released on Sunday night, in Abuja by its assistant director of public affairs, Fatima Usara, disclosed the development.

Usara revealed the criteria for screening the earlier announced 110 qualified tour operators.

The criteria used in selecting the initial 110 tour operators included capacity of operation; years of experience; historical antecedents, and clean bill of operation.

The commission noted that the top 40 scoring by a seven-man team of experts were adjudged to qualify and were consequently approved after the evaluation of each operator’s ability, experience, and quality of services.

The Commission urged the remaining 70 that have qualified (from the 110 earlier approved) to consider aligning with the qualified 40 in the discharge of this religious obligation.

It assured that, as a stakeholder, it was desirous of ensuring that this partnership was entrenched even before the issuance of letters of approval.

In the principle of inclusivity, the Commission announced that it will soon hold a meeting with the overall 110 qualified operators to explore avenues of synergy to ensure all parties are carried along amicably.


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Tinubu dissolves Hajj Commission board, appoints Arabi as CEO

President Bola Tinubu, on Tuesday, approved the dissolution of the Board of National Hajj Commission of Nigeria.

He also appointed Jalal Arabi to serve as the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Commission for a term of four years in the first instance.

“The new Chairman / CEO of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria, Jalal Arabi, will assume office in acting capacity on October 18, 2023, and will continue to serve in substantive capacity for a fresh term of four years, beginning on January 17, 2024,” a statement signed by the President’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Ajuri Ngelale, revealed on Tuesday.

The statement is titled ‘President Tinubu appoints new NAHCON Chief Executive Officer; approves dissolution of NAHCON Board.’

Consequently, Tinubu directed the outgoing Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Commission, Zikrullah Hassan, to proceed on 3-months pre-retirement leave as provisioned by Public Service Rule 120243 with effect from October 18, 2023, leading to his eventual retirement from service on January 17, 2024.

The President said he “expects that the new NAHCON leadership will serve in reverence of Allah and with utmost adherence to the precepts of service according to the Holy Qur’an.”


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2023 Hajj: NAHCON records 13 deaths

Six persons have reportedly died in the course of the Hajj rites in Mina and Arafat, according to the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria.

NAHCON’s Head of Medical Mission, Dr. Usman Galadima, made this known during a Stakeholders’ meeting in Makkah, on Sunday.

The deaths of the six pilgrims bring the total number of deaths at the 2023 Hajj exercise to 13.

In its report, the NAHCON medical team said Kaduna and Osun States lost two pilgrims each; Plateau, Borno, Yobe, FCT, Benue, and Lagos states lost one pilgrim respectively, while tour operators lost three pilgrims.

In his presentation, Galadima explained that a total of seven pilgrims died before Misha’ir – movement from Mina to Arafat, and back to Mina – while another six died during the Misha’ir.

He said: “Some of the challenges faced in Mina included increased pressure on the ambulance services, increased congestion in Mina, and poor sanitization”.

Galadima also disclosed that two Nigerians had been put to bed during the 5-days Hajj rites, while 93 emergency cases were being attended to, including three cases of Chickenpox.

The team also reportedly recorded five psychiatric cases, seven heat strokes, 12 severe malaria cases, and seven cases of diabetes emergencies.

Meanwhile, NAHCON’s Head of Aviation, Goni Sanda disclosed that the inaugural return flight to Nigeria had been scheduled for the 4th of July and would run till the 3rd of August, adding that both officials and pilgrims would be treated on a “first come, first to depart system”

He however stated that most officials may spend “nothing more than 45 days in Saudi Arabia to ensure smooth return of Nigerians home.”


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