â€˜Digitalise Hajj to save pilgrims from COVID-19â€™ - THE NATION
FEBRUARY 18, 2021
By Nduka Chiejina, Abuja
The Federal Government has urged the National Hajj Commission to digitise its processes to save pilgrims from the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic.
Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning Mrs. Zainab Ahmed advised members of the commission to quickly adopt digitisation process â€œbecause of the present reality of COVID-19 pandemicâ€.
She, therefore, appealed to the commission to license more banks to help ease the digitisation process.
Mrs. Ahmed stated these when Chairman National Hajj Commission Alhaji Zikrullah Kunle Hassan and his team visited her to present the commissionâ€™s Hajji Saving Scheme to her.
On the saving scheme, the finance minister encouraged the commission to double its efforts in sensitising Muslims on the need to take advantage of the scheme.
Ahmed expressed delight at the way the commission reaches out to and consults with stakeholders. She noted that the action would open up space and contribute to the smooth-running of the commission.
She acknowledged the fact that the commission needs support, but must put its requests in writing and be specific.
â€œWe cannot offer governmentâ€™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,â€ Mrs. Ahmed said.
She promised to liaise with bilateral partners for technical support for the commission, hailing the effort of the commission to revive dead assets.
Hassan said the commission is â€œimbibing digitisation to minimise face-to-face interaction and to create more transparency in our processesâ€.
Hassan stated that â€œdue to dwindling resources, we at the Hajj Commission frown at government sponsorship of Hajj for individuals from governmentâ€™s purseâ€.
â€œNigeria is the fifth-largest contingent to Saudi Arabia for Hajj 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.â€
â€œWe, therefore, introduced a Hajji Saving Scheme, and all stakeholders have adopted it. Prospective candidates can now save bit-by-bit to allow them to go to Hajj 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,â€ he said.