By Gift Samuel, The Sight News
Abuja-The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON)has on Tuesday disclosed that it has saved pilgrims and the Nigerian government a total of $12.3 million in foreign exchange through the reduction of rates for pilgrims accommodation in Madina in 2017.
Speaking to Newsmen in Abuja on the achievements of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria 2015-2017, at a media round table organized by the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) to avail Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs) an opportunity to be accountable,the secretary of the Commission, Dr. Bello Tambuwal said the commission was able to reduce the accommodation rates from 2,313 Saudi Riyals per pilgrim in 2016 to 1,690 Saudi Riyals in 2017.
Tambuwal pointed out that the feat was achieved through direct negotiations with landlords and owners of the properties instead of agents, adding similarly that rates were also crashed by the Commission in Makkah , resulting into a total savings of N13.6 million.
On the issue of dependence on government for financing, he announced that the commission also reduced dependence on government for funding of its offshore operations from 69 percent in 2014 to 68 percent in 2015 and finally to 28 percent in 2016.
He further noted that the sum of N1.75 billion was refunded to the pilgrims board of the 36 states and FCT in March 2016 for either services not rendered or poorly rendered services during the 2015 Hajj, adding that it is a demonstration of the Commission’s commitment to pilgrims who should get value for their money.
Tambuwal also disclosed that in the aftermath of the 2015 stampede in Mecca that left 317 Nigerians dead, the commission has resolved to establish a DNA bank to enable them identify and trace pilgrims in events of death and absence of any form of identity.
The Secretary while noting that the families of the victims of the 2015 incidents are yet to be compensated, emphasized that the Hajj Commission will not hesitate to hand over the compensation to the families when it arrives.
He listed other achievement of the Commission to include: Introduction and gazetting of Hajj and Umrah regulations; licensing of state pilgrims welfare board and agencies; improvement in the quality and capacity of service providers; introduction of National Medical Team as well as improvement in pilgrims airlift; accommodation in Saudi Arabia and welfare in Masha’ir.