Daily Trust (Abuja)

11 February 2013

Nigeria: Hajj 2013 - Civil Society Wants Unified Registration of Pilgrims

Independent Hajj Reporters, a civil society organization, said yesterday that a unified online registration of Nigerian pilgrims is needed to avoid the problems that led to the deportation of women pilgrims by the Saudi Arabian authorities last year.

A statement signed by its national coordinator Ibrahim Muhammad and publicity secretary, Abubakar Mahmoud, said "the Saudi online hajj visa form contains the same information worldwide. A situation where states fill in different information in the Muharam column can really lead to avoidable problems in 2013 hajj exercise."

"NAHCON should liaise with states pilgrims' boards whose responsibility is to request for visa on behalf of their pilgrims to create a centralized arrangement that will make it possible for all states to supply their pilgrims' bio-data in unified format. This will address the issue of muharram and also assists in creating hajj data bank that can be used by medical services, airlines and other services providers where prompt pilgrims information is required," the statement said.

Hajj Reporters said that "during the hajj 2012 post mortem conference held on February 4, at the National Mosque Abuja, NAHCON commissioner of operation while responding to a question admitted that some states pilgrims welfare boards made mistakes when filling in the muharam column provided in the Saudi hajj visa request form. This is an indication that each state used different method in applying for its visa. Such situation if allowed to continue can create another problem in the 2013 hajj exercise."

Also, the organization urged Saudi Hajj Authority to increase hajj seats allocation to Nigeria as it did to other countries. "The seat allocated to Nigeria in 2012 is 98, 000 even though more than three million people are applying for hajj seats every year. For example, Pakistan was allocated 159,647 seats in 2011 but it was increased to 179,256 in 2012. India got 1, 350, 100 seats in 2012 as against 1, 240, 901 in 2011," the group said.

"Unless there is an increase in hajj seats and a corresponding transparent system of sales of same, the dream of millions of Nigeria Muslims to fulfill the this pillar of Islam will never come to fruition," the organization said.

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