The Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, on Saturday appealed to the Federal Government to reinstate the position of an Amirul Hajj in line with Islamic tradition.
An Amirul Hajj is a leader of Hajj pilgrims, appointed by the government body, Hajj commission or religious head to lead the Hajj pilgrimage and offer advice on appropriate rules and regulation for performing Hajj, leading prayers, and overseeing grievances.
The Sultan, who was Amirul Hajj of Nigerians performing Hajj in 2013, made the appeal at a two-day National Hajj and Umrah Stakeholders Conference to mark the 10th Anniversary of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria, NAHCON, in Abuja.
The theme of the conference is; “Hajj Management in Nigeria: Honouring the past, treasuring the present and shaping the future.’’
President Muhammadu Buhari had on August 22, 2015, through his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, declared that there would be no Federal Government delegation for pilgrimage.
According to Shehu, the Federal Government by that decision is expected to save about 1million dollars and N30 million in local expenses.
Amirul Hajj Team or Federal Government delegation to Hajj, is usually appointed to lead pilgrimage, counsel pilgrims on appropriate rules and regulations for performing hajj, leading prayers, and mediating in disputes.
But Mr Abubakar, who is also the President General, Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, NSCIA, said that the role of Amirul hajj was very important in Islam because of the importance of leadership in the religion.
The monarch said that wherever Muslims found themselves; they must have leadership that would guide their conduct and behaviour as clearly spelt out in the Holy Qur’an.
“Whenever Muslims are embarking on a journey within and outside their country, they must select a leader among themselves who will guide their dealings.
“We cannot allow close to 100,000 Muslims to embark on pilgrimage to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia annually without leadership because it is against the teachings of Islam.
“We are demanding for a special concession from the government and asking for our rights as Muslims and as citizens of our great country.
“I therefore, urge stakeholders in this conference to brainstorm and come up with workable solutions on how we can enhance hajj management and operations in the country,’’ he said.
He said the conference would enable Hajj stakeholders to review the operation of NAHCON since its inception and chart a new course to improve hajj and umrah.
The Sultan, however, advised the Muslims to always be sure of their facts before coming out to commend or condemn any person or institutions.
The Executive Chairman of NAHCON, Abdullahi Mohammed disclosed that the commission would establish a standard Hajj Training Institute for the training of Hajj Managers and handlers in the country.
Mr Mohammed also said that NAHCON was also planning to establish a Hajj Saving Scheme in order to boost the revenue profile of the Commission to attain financial autonomy.
According to him, the commission has recorded tremendous achievement in the last one decade, adding that since the inception of NAHCON Nigerian pilgrims no longer become stranded in Saudi Arabia during hajj.