By Ismail Abdulaziz
In a few days, the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) will start the transportation of Nigerian intending pilgrims to the Holy lands of Makkah and Madinah in Saudi Arabia for the performance of the Hajj, the fifth pillar of Islam, mandatory on all adult Muslims with sound mind and financial capacity to perform, at least once in a lifetime.
No doubt, the services to be performed by NAHCON are both spiritual and temporal in the sense that it must abide by the Constitution of the country as well as meet the criteria of the faith. It is, however, a yearly spiritual programme carried out over the decades, except for the two years’ interruption because of the COVID-19 pandemic that gripped the world between 2020 to 2022.
The task before NAHCON is fulfilling the service agreement the Federal Government has with Nigerians as succinctly articulated in the SERVICOM charter, whether within or outside the country. SERVICOM is an acronym for Service Compact with all Nigerians. It was established in 2004 as the outcome of a Three-day Special Presidential Retreat on Service Delivery.
The most outstanding responsibilities of SERVICOM is to provide quality service to the people, set out the entitlement of the citizens, ensure good leadership, educate the citizens (customers) on their rights and to empower public officers to be alert to their responsibilities in providing improved, efficient, timely and transparent services.
However, educating the citizens (customers) to their rights is part of the various challenges encountered in the course of carrying out these responsibilities. Education is a way of reducing the communication gaps likely to lead to misunderstanding and friction during the course of providing services by government agencies directly or indirectly involved with citizens.
The NAHCON, over time has been a beneficiary of the religious aspects that does not allow for pilgrims to make unnecessary complaints or show contempt towards the efforts made by its personnel in handling pilgrims affairs, before, during and even after the pilgrimage. This does not, however, foreclose the fact that proper enlightenment must not be jeopardised on the altar of complacency.
It is noteworthy that the NAHCON has always had a robust media team in each of its yearly operations. The team has the mandate to liaise between the pilgrims and NAHCON officials. This had largely led to enhancing understanding between them before, during and after the exercise.
A large percentage of the challenges of Hajj can be attributed to flight schedules, take off time and returning dates, as well as feeding and accommodation arrangements in Madinah, Makkah and Mina. These duties are shared responsibilities between NAHCON and respective State Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Boards.
The Hajj media team has been able to handle these challenges by taking to task relevant authorities on their responsibilities. This should be maintained by the team during the 2023 pilgrimage. The media should at all times serve as the watchdog of the society, and all hands must be on deck to ensure that the NAHCON media team plays this role effectively and efficiently. Nothing should be spared on this.
The 2023 Hajj operations must not be an exception to the rules. The tradition of having a robust media team in the exercise would continue to ensure that pilgrims have effective channels of communication between them and Hajj officials at both states and federal levels.
The media and government officials must therefore ensure that the guests of Allah are properly taken care of by those charged to provide services to them, and which the pilgrims have paid for. This should be done unreservedly to not only attain the boundless grace of Allah, but also satisfactorily deliver the service compact Government has with the pilgrims.