National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) has directed state pilgrims welfare boards, agencies and Commissions to commence online registration for 2019 intending pilgrims in the country.

The Head, Public Affairs Division of NAHCON, Mrs Fatima Usara, made this known in a statement on Saturday in Abuja.

She stated that NAHCON gave the directives during post Hajj joint meeting with chief executives of the boards and agencies on Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018.

She noted that the meeting reviewed salient challenges faced during the 2018 Hajj, with a view to finding solutions to them.

She explained that late registration of pilgrims was identified as a major setback in the success of the 2018 Hajj operations, hence, it was resolved that all state welfare boards should commence online registration of intending pilgrims.

Usara noted that the meeting agreed to tentatively peg the 2019 Hajj fare at N1.5 million, pending final calculation of the total fare.

She added that “it was agreed that installment payments should be concluded by Feb. 2019.

“Intending  pilgrims are to note that Hajj registration is to be done online, cost of which is N500, and these charges are already included in the total fare.

“No extra amount is to be charged for purchase of Hajj form because the form is obsolete.”

She said that the meeting also resolved that as part of measures to safeguard timely planning, state welfare boards should propose tentative dates for transportation of their pilgrims and submit such resolutions to NAHCON within 30 days from date of the meeting.

She noted that some State chief Executives who spoke on accommodation challenges had commended the Madinah pilgrims’ accommodation and appealed to NAHCON to sustain the feat.

On the issue of catering services, Usara stated that it was agreed that each state should negotiate feeding of pilgrims directly with the caterers and bypass any intermediary in the name of agents.

She said that state pilgrims boards were also counseled to look at the possibility of exporting and supplying the caterers with Nigerian variety of foodstuff to be used in preparing Nigerian pilgrims’ meals.

She explained that “doing this will form part of revenue generation avenue for the states.

“However, such export must be done strictly under Saudi Arabian guidelines and permit.”

She said that all state boards would join hands with NAHCON and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in ending cases of pilgrims absconding during Hajj and Umrah, which nevertheless had been on the decline in recent years.

Usara assured that NAHCON would ensure that all Umrah and Hajj applicants returned within the stipulated time on their visas.