The Hajji Saving Scheme of National Hajji Commission has got the buy-in of Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, Honourable Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, as she has encouraged the Commission to double its efforts in sensitising muslims on the need to take advantage of the scheme.
Responding during a recent courtesy visit by Alhaji Zikrullah Kunle Hassan, Chairman National Hajji Commission, and his team, Mrs. Ahmed advised them to adopt digitization process, making them to understand that digitization is the way to go because of the present reality of COVID-19 pandemic. She, therefore, asked them to quickly adopt the process.
The Honourable Minister’s advice was based on Alhaji Hassan’s position that: “We at National Hajji Commission are also imbibing digitization so as to minimize face to face interaction and to create more transparency in our processes.”
On how far the Commission has gone, Alhaji Hassan stated: “We came into office a year ago and before we could settle down to work, COVID-19 had struck. Despite that, we did not close shop, rather, our staff had to work from home. We visited all Hajji stakeholders, including almost half of the governors in Nigeria; we had useful discussions with them regarding the mandate of the new management, and sought their support in fulfilling the mandate.”
He said: “Due to dwindling resources, we at the Hajji Commission frown at government sponsorship of hajji for individuals from government’s purse. Nigeria is the fifth largest contingent to Saudi Arabia for Hajji after India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Malaysia. Nigeria has an allocation of over 95,000 and that number has been consistent over the years. But, the capacity to attend has reduced considerably”.
“We, therefore, introduced a Hajji Saving Scheme, and all stakeholders have adopted it. Prospective candidates can now save bit by bit to allow them go to hajji at their own convenient time, without stressing anyone. They can save for as long as they can, and it must not be that they go immediately, but when they are able to save enough,” he also said.
According to him, the Hajji Commission has entered a partnership with Jaiz Bank for the purpose of managing the scheme. “We chose Jaiz Bank because of the obvious fact that it is a non interest bank. Jaiz is opening various branches to accommodate the number of people in the hinterland to embrace the saving scheme which is an added advantage for Jaiz to expand its operations. So, it is a win -win for all of us,” he said further.
He disclosed that the Commission is also training young graduates to learn and understand the activities of the Commission in order to create opportunities for them to participate and manage hajji operations and activities.
“Another area of interest for us is our assets. We have a lot of hajji camps spread across the country that we can use to raise enough funds and resources. We are therefore looking at our assets in the following states as a start: Kano, Maiduguri, Ilorin and Lagos. We are looking at the opportunities of converting them into markets, malls, residential buildings etc. This is in an effort to raise revenue and be independent,” he said further.
In her response, the Honourable Minister said that she was particularly encouraged by their stakeholders reach out and the consultation. She noted that the action would open up the space and contribute to the smooth running of the Commission
She also advised that Jaiz Bank alone might not be able to handle the volume of prospective hajji goers. She, therefore, appealed to the Commission to license other banks to help ease the process. She acknowledged the fact that the Commission needs support, but must put its requests in writing and be specific in their requests.
“We cannot offer government’s support now, but our multilateral institutions can offer technical support. So, reach out to them and let us know and we will help you reach out too,” Mrs. Ahmed said.
She promised to liaise with bilateral partners for technical support for the Commission. She also commended the effort of the Commission to revive all dead assets, and said she was an advocate, and that she would be happy and that Mr. President would be pleased to see that happens. She also noted that the Hajji Commission is one of the government agencies that have been off government funding.
The chairman was accompanied on the visit by Nura Hassan Yakassai, Commissioner, Policy Personnel Management and Finance, Sheikh Momoh Suleman, Commissioner Planning Research Statistics Information and Library Services and Hajiya Rabi Bello Isa, Board Member Representing Ministry of Finance Budget and National Planning