By Ameenu Kutama and Ismail Auwal
At least 284 intending pilgrims from Kano State are set to miss out on this year’s Hajj exercise.
The 284 pilgrims, under the National Hajj Savings Scheme, a collaborative project between the National Hajj Commission (NAHCON), Jaiz Bank and the Kano State Government, which allows prospective pilgrims to make gradual deposits through Jaiz Bank Plc, was launched by the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Abubakar Sa’ad III on 4 October, 2020.
Chairman of NAHCON, Barr. Zikirullah Kunle Hassan, while speaking at the event, said an agreement was entered with JAIZ to ensure that deposited funds are invested in shariah-compliant ways and generate profits that will complement the deposits by intending pilgrims in paying for the cost of Hajj.
He also described the event as historic because “this is one of its kind in the continent as we are changing the narrative of Hajj Scheme to make it easier for people to perform Hajj.”
However, the scheme has become a keg of problems, as intending pilgrims under the scheme in Kano have decried their exclusion from preliminary travel preparations for the 2022 exercise.
The intending pilgrims, who converged on the headquarters of the Kano State Pilgrims Welfare Board in Kano, on Tuesday, lamented how they have not been allocated travel uniforms and luggage despite making full payment.
“We paid 2.5 million Naira to Jaiz Bank as directed by the State Pilgrims Board. And our deposit was debited two weeks ago, after taking the COVID-19 vaccine. No one had told us we wouldn’t make it to this year’s Hajj, until yesterday. If we knew we would be made to go through all these in vain, we would’ve paid for our slots through travel agents or other states”
Abubakar Suleiman, one of the the intending pilgrims lamented.
“It has been one deceit after another, if you would deceive anyone, it shouldn’t be us (intending pilgrims).” Ado Abubakar, another intending pilgrim lamented.
While launching the scheme in October 2020, the Kano State Governor, Dr Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, declared the state government’s total support for the scheme, describing it as one that will make Hajj easier for Muslims in the state.
However, for intending pilgrims under the scheme like Muhammad Auwal, the reverse has been the case. “The Government and Jaiz Bank launched the scheme here in Kano, and advised us to pay to Jaiz. We also heard that NAHCON has allocated 40% of the seats in Kano to us, but the State Hajj Commission officials are now telling us that there is no slot available to us, we don’t what will be of our trip and money.”
Reacting, The Executive Secretary of the Kano State Pilgrims Welfare Board, Alhaji Abba Danbatta, admitted that the scheme was adopted from other Muslim countries like Malaysia and Indonesia to ease the payment of Hajj fees. He also attributed the tension to reduction in seats allocation for Kano State from 5,500 to 2,229 pilgrims, as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.
He, however, denied any allocation of statutory seats to intending pilgrims under the Hajj Savings Scheme by NAHCON. “There is no allocation for intending pilgrims under the scheme from NAHCON, and I have been trying to get word from them regarding this, but to no avail, I will even be flying to Abuja after meeting you to get an allocation for the Scheme.”
Danbatta, also added that the commission is currently not in possession of any money paid by the intending pilgrims, while faulting Jaiz Bank for not making prompt payment to the commission for visa processing.