The Executive Secretary, Lagos State Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Board, Mr. Muftau Okoya has said that the greatest challenge pilgrims faced during the just concluded hajj in Saudi Arabia was in Muna.
Mina is a Tent City located about 15kilometers to the east of Makkah with proximity to Mount Arafat. About 200,000 air-conditioned tents were installed in the whole area as temporary accommodation for about 4 million pilgrims.
Okoya said: “Our greatest challenge in this year operation was in Muna. There was an out surge of pilgrims because Saudi Arabia Government admitted too many pilgrims at the detriment of the available facilities. So, the facilities were over stretched to the extent that Lagos pilgrims encountered the problem of accommodation in Muna”.
According to him, the Lagos State pilgrims put their maturity to test by ensuring that this challenge did not put their patience and comportment into test.
He stated that the Board was not under any pressure to retain the first position won in the 2016 Hajj operation, adding, “We are not into competition with anyone, we are just doing what we know how to do best, which is giving our pilgrims the best treatment ever in Umurah and Hajj services, he said.
On Hajj fare, Okoya explained that 2018 Hajj fare would depend on the performance of the naira in the exchange market.
“National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) has been working round the clock to reduce hajj fare but it has been very difficult because 90% of the components of hajj fare are foreign exchange”.
On the duration of pilgrimage in the holy land, Okoya stated that the required number of days for a complete Umurah and Hajj exercise is 45 days; but the Board would have loved to reduce the days to 20 if it had the powers considering businessmen and women who were mostly affected during the 40-day period in Saudi Arabia.
He added that the use of technology made this year’s operation easier because all necessary facilities due to each pilgrim were registered for online through NAHCON. “Facilities such as food, hotels, tents, buses among other needs were applied for online and this facilitated the success of the operation.
Okoya stressed that hajj was meant to educate all pilgrims that every Muslim is equal to another. It encourages love, friendship, brotherhood, trust, netorking and consciousness of the vanities of life.
“The lesson learnt so far is that each operation comes with its own challenges and that all challenges have solutions. So, we sought for the right solutions during those problems and we still came out successfully,” he stated.
“The problem caused by late payment will be addressed in the 2018 hajj exercise. A deadline will be issued this time but we are waiting for NAHCON to fix hajj fare. Lagos State began preparation for hajj 2018 way back in Saudi Arabia”, he declared.
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