The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria, NAHCON, has said it is considering reducing the number of pilgrims that would perform hajj in 2018.
The Executive Chairman of NAHCON, Abdullahi Muhammad, disclosed this on Sunday during inspection of pilgrims’ tents in Muna, Saudi Arabia.
Presently, Nigeria has a total of 95, 000 Hajj slots as approved by the Saudi Ministry for Hajj and Umrah Affairs.
The figure ranked Nigeria as the fifth country with highest number of pilgrims.
Statistics by NAHCON shows that no fewer than 81, 000 Nigeria pilgrims performed this year’s hajj, which was higher than the number of pilgrims that participated in 2016 hajj with 10, 000.
Mr Muhammad, who was represented by the Director, Planning, Research and Statistic, Suleiman Usman, said the commission was not happy that several states got inadequate number of tents to accommodate pilgrims, resulting in shortage of toilets.
He attributed some of the challenges to late preparation on the side of Nigeria, saying due to delay in completion of payments several states were not sure of their total number of pilgrims within required time for adequate reservations.
“NAHCON is even thinking of reducing the number of pilgrims because there is no way to expand Muna and the numbers of pilgrims keep increasing.
“It is still an option, but we are trying to see how the welfare of pilgrims can be improved.
“Muna was planned for about 900,000 pilgrims; it is now accommodating more than two million pilgrims.
“So, we are still contemplating reducing the number to a manageable size. But that would be subject to consultations with all stakeholders,’’ Mr Muhammad said.
During the inspection, the delegation officials of several states expressed concern about inadequate space for pilgrims and insufficient number of toilets as major challenges facing pilgrims.
The Head of Kaduna State Pilgrims Welfare Board, Imam Hussein, told the delegation that they had three complaints of inadequate toilet, lack of enough space in the tent and ineffective cooling system at Arafat.
“As you can see, we have shortage of tents, several of our pilgrims are sleeping outside and if it were to rain, they will all be soaked.
“We also have shortage of toilets. We are finding it difficult to separate between male and female toilets.
“At Arafat, the cooling system at the tents did not work properly. They blew hot air and that also affected our pilgrims,’’ he said.
The situation was not different at Kano, Sokoto and Bauchi States tents visited as pilgrims spread mats in an open space, while several others endured long queues to use toilets.
Meanwhile, pilgrims began to leave the Tent City early hours of Sunday after spending four nights.
Pilgrims will return to Makkah for the final stages of hajj rites and return flights to various countries are expected to begin on September 6.