The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria, NAHCON says about 55,000 Nigerian pilgrims are expected to perform the 2018 Hajj.
The figure is less by 15,000 from the 70,000 Nigerian pilgrims took part in the spiritual obligation in 2017.
Saudi Arabia had allocated 95,000 Hajj seats to Nigeria for this year.
NAHCON Chairman, Barrister Abdullahi Mukhtar, disclosed this during an interactive session with journalists in Abuja on Friday.
He attributed the decrease in the number of Nigerian pilgrims performing the Hajj to the early closure of registration by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
“Majority of Nigerian pilgrims register for hajj at least one week before the core Hajj rites commence. If the commission continues to register pilgrims up to the last flight on August 15, it will register nothing less than 20,000 people. That window is no longer available,” he stated.
“For the purposes of effective planning, the Saudi Government tries to know the (total) number of pilgrims all over the world who will be performing the hajj in good time. As such, they have cut-back the closing date for registration of pilgrims.” The Nahcon Chairman explained.
Initially, registration to perform the Hajj was open for all intending pilgrims until the end of the month of Rajab in the lunar calender.
This was later extended until the end of the month of Sha’ban for Nigerian pilgrims before another extension was granted until the end of the lunar month of Dhul Qa’dah, which ended on the 23rd of July, 2018 in the Gregorian calender.
“In the past, registration continued up to the first week of the lunar month of Dhul Hajj. If you go through the registration activities of Nigerian pilgrims, it is always in the last two weeks of the closure of registration that people pay for Hajj. Barrister Mukhtar said.
According to him, “most of the traders and average businessmen turn around their money and wait for the last week to pay.”
The NAHCON Chairman added: “Statistics show that two weeks before the closure of Jeddah airport, Nigeria always registered about 25,000 to 30,000 people every year. Now this last week registration has been discontinued. That explains the reason for the reduction.”
35% Nahcon officials not performing Hajj:
Barrister Mukhtar also announced that 35% of the commission’s officials assisting the pilgrims in the holy land, would not take part in the performing the 2018 Hajj.
Last year, 25% of the Nahcon officials on pilgrims’ duties did not perform the Hajj.
“The figure will keep increasing as the officials are becoming more aware of the wisdom behind it. We are there to serve the pilgrims, not to perform Hajj and hardly can we combine the two effectively,” he stated.