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Interior Ministry, NAHCON collaborate on improved Hajj operations




Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, has promised to support the National Hajj commission of Nigeria, NAHCON in its move to implement the Makkah Road Initiative in the country with a view to making Hajj operations easier for Nigerian Muslims.
The initiative, which is already being practised in Malaysia, Indonesia and Pakistan, involves the screening of intending pilgrims at the point of exit in Nigeria to avoid long hours of screening at the point of entry to Makkah, Saudi Arabia.
Aregbesola, who spoke while receiving the chairman of NAHCON, Alhaji Zikrullah Kunle Hassan and his management team on a courtesy visit to the ministry in Abuja, said the federal government was ready to do whatever it will take to guarantee the welfare of Nigerians.
“I welcome you, I promised you all the support of the ministry and its agencies, we eagerly await the arrival of the Saudi officials that will fully elaborate what the initiative is all about.
“But from what I read and heard you can count on us as worthy partners in successful inclusion of Nigeria in the Makkah route Initiative which is meant to remove and bring to the barest minimum stress, difficulties
and challenges that pilgrims face in discharge of their religious duties,” he said.
The minister also added that countries like Malaysia, Indonesia and Pakistan are all enjoying the initiative and sees no reason why Nigeria cannot key in.
Earlier, in his remarks, the NAHCON chairman informed the minister that the purpose of the visit was to seek the support of the ministry in the commission’s quest to be included among the beneficiaries of the Makkah Route Initiative, which will make Nigeria the first beneficiary in Africa.
While briefing the minister on the expectations of the Commission, Zhikrullah described the role that the ministry would play in achieving the said goal as crucial since it oversees a fundamental aspect of the initiative.
According to him, if the project is implemented, it will end the suffering Nigerian pilgrims have endured due to multiple screenings
in both Nigerian and Saudi Arabian airports.
The chairman said: “With this initiative, the pilgrims will be screened by the Saudi authorities right from our homeland airports and straight to their buses when they arrive Saudi Arabia. Even their bags will be waiting for them in their hotels, to be delivered by the relevant Saudi Arabian authorities. All necessary security checks will be concluded here in Nigeria.”
He added that the Saudi Arabian authorities would send a delegation to Nigeria in order to assess the level or preparedness of the Commission and relevant agencies hence the purpose and need for the visit in order to intimate the minister.
“This will give Nigeria the chance to be part of the Makkah Road Project,” he said.
It would be recalled that Nigeria first expressed interest in the project in 2018, but in 2019, Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Minister of Hajj, Abdul Rahman Al-Bijawi renewed the offer while receiving the NAHCON delegation in his office in Makkah.

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