The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) has said that about 55,000 Nigerian pilgrims are expected to perform this year’s hajj exercise.
This was a decrease from last year’s figure where over 70,000 Nigerians took part in the spiritual exercise.
For the 2018 Hajj, Saudi Arabia allocated 95,000 hajj seats to Nigeria.
“For this year, about 55,000 Nigerians would be performing the hajj,” NAHCON chairman, Abdullahi Mukhtar, told journalists in an interactive session Friday in Abuja.
He said the reduction was attributed to the early closure of pilgrims’ registration by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
According to him, majority of Nigerian pilgrims register for hajj at least one week before the core hajj exercise commences.
Mukhtar said if the commission continues to register pilgrims up to the last flight on August 15, it will register nothing less than 20,000 people.
He added that the window of that last week registration is no longer available.
The NAHCON chair said, “The Saudi Government tries to know the number of pilgrims all over the world that will be performing the hajj in good time. As such, they have cut-off date for pilgrims’ registration.
“Initially, it was Rajab. We requested that Rajab was not feasible. Then it was extended to the end of Sha’ban. We said even that was not too good for us because our pilgrims are used to paying for hajj after Ramadan.
“The Saudi Ministry of Hajj now extended the pilgrims registration window up to Zul Qa’dah, which ends on 23rd of July.
“But in the past, the registration continued up to the first week of month of hajj. If you go through the registration activities of Nigerian pilgrims, it is always at the last two weeks of the closure of registration that people pay for hajj.
“Most of the traders and average businessmen turn around their money and wait for the last week to pay. Now the window of that last week is no longer available.
“Statistics shows that two weeks before the closure of Jeddah airport, Nigeria always registers about 25,000 to 30,000 people every year. Now this last week registration has been discontinued. That explains the reason for the reduction.”
Meanwhile, Mukhtar disclosed that 35% of the commission’s officials, assisting the pilgrims in the holy land, would not take part in the spiritual exercise.
Last year, he said 25% of the NAHCON officials did not perform hajj.
“So the figure will keep increasing as the officials are becoming more aware of the wisdom behind it, because we are there to serve the pilgrims, not to perform hajj.
“The primary purpose that officials go for hajj is to assist the pilgrims and we realize that hardly, we can effectively combine the two especially during the core hajj,” he said.
However Solacebase gathered that the reduction in the pilgrims ready to perform the hajj exercise is related to the high fare charged by the commission.