By Ajape Sefiu A.

A faith-based Civil Society Organization (CSO), Independent Hajj Reporters (IHR), has called on the various Amirul Hajj teams being appointed by state governors to refrain from usurping the powers of statutory officials during the upcoming Hajj operations as Nigerian intending pilgrims prepare to leave the country for this year’s holy pilgrimage in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

In a statement signed by its National Coordinator, Ibrahim Muhammed, made available in Abuja today, IHR stated that the call became imperative owing to past experiences in which some state Amirul Hajj teams, which were supposed to be ad-hoc committees formed to offer support to appointed officials and pilgrims, often assumed powers and responsibilities beyond their scope, leading to chaos and negatively affecting operations during Hajj exercise.

IHR states that in order to prevent conflicts, the Amirul Hajj teams should have a defined term of reference and their itineraries shouldn’t include any operational concerns.

The CSO stated that Amirul Hajj teams were sometimes led by respected traditional rulers or members of the Ulama with a wide following and high regard, adding that they were expected to simply support Hajj officials in carrying out their responsibilities diligently while also offering advice and guidance to pilgrims on what was expected of them.

“From experience, we know for a fact that once appointed, some state Amirul Hajj teams try to lord it over Hajj officials, especially while in Saudi Arabia, and any resistance to that effect by these officials often leads to unnecessary crises.

“State officials are often forced to satisfy the needs of Amirul Hajj teams because they wield influence that can lead to their removal from office. Valuable time is, therefore, dedicated to managing the crisis instead of fixing the onerous task of serving pilgrims.

“While we appreciate the role of leadership and guidance of the Amirul teams, there are instances when the Amirul Hajj teams usurped the critical operational responsibilities of state Muslim pilgrims’ welfare board officials, especially in the areas of airlift schedule and the allocation of accommodation to pilgrims.

“We have seen cases where some high-profile and politically connected Amirul Hajj team members will be requesting VIP services,” IHR stated.

Saying that it has no problem with the Amirul Hajj team, the CSO then urged such teams to avoid constituting themselves as an unnecessary obstacle in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

It also appealed to state pilgrim welfare boards’ officials to see the Amirul Hajj teams as partners in progress instead of being antagonistic to members of the teams.

“While we have no problem with Amirul Hajj teams, we urge that these teams not go to Saudi Arabia and constitute themselves as an unnecessary obstacle to the smooth running of Hajj operations.

“They should see their appointments as a call to serve the pilgrims, who are the guests of Allah (SWT) from their states and the country at large, and should, therefore, strive to offer their best to gain maximum reward.

“In the same vein, we call on the various officials from the states not to be antagonistic to the members of the Amirul Hajj teams but to see them as partners in progress for the common good of the pilgrims.

“We know that differences may arise, but we also know that both members of the Amirul Hajj teams and officials can always settle the differences without recourse to animosity.

“Let everyone act with the hope of getting Allah’s favour and nothing else,” IHR admonished.