Grant Refund Request To Intending Pilgrims, NAHCON urges States

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The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON),has urged states to grant refund request to any intending pilgrim wishing to withdraw their Hajj fare,without delay.

The commission’s directive was sequel to Saudi authorities decision not to allow any foreigner to perform 2021 Hajj in Saudi Arabia, due to COVID-19 pandemic concerns.

The Head, Public Affairs of the commission, Fatima Usara,in a statement in Abuja on Saturday, however advised intending pilgrims desirious to roll over their fare for the holy exercise to wait for further decision by the board.

She said,no matter how painful the cancellation was, the commission respects the decision of Saudi Arabia, adding that it had accepted it as “Allah’s divine design”.

Usara described the cancellation of Hajj 2021 for all foreign pilgrims as an act of God, adding that what Allah had decreed was being played by Saudi Arabia.

According to Saudi Press Agency in Riyadh on Saturday,the annual pilgrimage will be restricted to 60,000 vaccinated adults from within the kingdom due concerns over COVID-19 pandemic, the Saudi authorities said this on Saturday in Riyadh.

The kingdom, it added, ran a reduced pilgrimage last year, but still allowed a small number of people to take part in the annual event.

Saudi Press Agency quoted the hajj and umrah ministry as saying that this year’s hajj, which begins in mid-July, would also be limited to vaccinated people, aged 18 to 65.

It explained that hajj, a physically demanding and often costly pilgrimage that draws faithful Muslims from around the world, would normally draw as many as 2 million people.

All able-bodied Muslims are required to perform it at least once in their lifetime, and it is seen as a chance to wipe clean past sins and encourage greater humility and unity, it added.

The Agency recalled that only about 1,000 people resident in Saudi Arabia took part in last year’s hajj with two-third foreign residents, from among the 160 different nationalities, that would have normally been represented. The other third, it added were Saudi security personnel and medical staff.

According to the Agency, the kingdom’s ruling family stakes its legitimacy on overseeing and protecting the hajj sites and ensuring the pilgrimage happens every year.

“The kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which is honoured to host pilgrims every year, confirms that this arrangement comes out of its constant concern for the health, safety and security of pilgrims as well as the safety of their countries,” it said.

The authorities of the Agency noted that diisease outbreaks had long been a concern surrounding the hajj.l, recalling that Pilgrims fought off a malaria outbreak in 632, cholera killed about 20,000 people in 1821 and another cholera outbreak killed 15,000 in 1865 before spreading worldwide.

Saudi Arabia more recently faced danger from a different coronavirus, one that causes the Middle East respiratory syndrome (Mers).

The kingdom increased its public health measures during the hajj in 2012 and 2013, urging sick and the elderly people not to take part.

Saudi officials also instituted bans on pilgrims from countries affected by the Ebola virus in recent years.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the kingdom has reported more than 462,000 cases and 7,500 deaths.

It has administered about 15.4 million vaccine doses, according to the World Health Organization. The kingdom is home to more than 30 million people, according to the Agency.

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