Hajj Operation and the parable of a two-sided story

by admin

By Ibrahim Muhammed

National coordinator

Independent Hajj Reporters


On the 20th of May 2024, an anonymous number sent a complaint to Hajj Reporters alleging that his mother by name Aishat from Edu local Govt in Kwara state have been defrauded by a staff of the Kwara State Muslim Pilgrims Welfare board. According to him, his mother had completed payment for this year’s hajj fare and was only expecting to be called to camp when the Man she paid the money to send her a message that she would not be among those who will travel this year due to a shortage of seats.

I requested him to forward the name, receipt of payment, and contact number of the person she paid to. He then sent me an MTN line without an accompanying name and receipt of payment. He claimed that he doesn’t know the name of the person. I sense deceitfulness, yet I forwarded the number to Hajiya Jumoke, the Public Relations Officer of Kwara State Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Board – a highly dedicated and committed woman.  She immediately placed the number in the Kwara State Pilgrims Boards WhatsApp platform and requested that whoever knows the number should call her immediately. Two days passed, and no one among the staff of the board knew the contact – an indication of a false alarm.

I called the complainant and warned him that if I discovered that he was just trying to blackmail the board I would order his arrest.

The man, who claimed that his mother had been defrauded has not called back or pick my follow-up call since then. I later went through my WhatsApp chat log and discovered that the same Man once requested that I assist his mother to be part of this year’s Medical Team. A potentially two-sided misleading story.

On the 24th of May, an intending pilgrim from Borno state called us around 8:30 pm and made a complaint. Reproduced below is his message “Salam Hajj Reporters, Good evening, please allow me to inform you of an issue with the Borno state pilgrims welfare board. The board has released the list of its intending pilgrims on the first flight but they are attempting to replace group 6 on the first flight to an undisclosed flight date. Please be informed accordingly” He later called and threatened that they will protests if the board refuse to rescind their decision.

I promised him that I would get back to him.

I immediately placed a call to Alh Wali Gana, the NAHCON Zonal Coordinator in charge of Borno state and asked him to help verify the issue. He admitted that the last group has been removed from the manifest to accommodate the remaining pilgrims of Yobe state who are 45 in number.

The NAHCON Zonal Coordinator explained that it is a usual airlift routine to accommodate the remaining number of pilgrims from another state that are being airlifted by the same hajj carrier but refutes the allegation that such pilgrims will be taken to the last flight.

On Tuesday 27th May, the said pilgrim sent me another message from Saudi Arabia saying that they have been airlifted on a second flight and thanked Hajj Reporters for prompt action.

There are numerous cases which we have resolved either by contacting the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) or relevant authorities involved due to our understanding that what matters most to pilgrims, especially during hajj operations is to act on his/her complaints or observations. Writing a story becomes a secondary option unless we discover that there is a deliberate attempt to shortchange or trample on the rights of pilgrims. Breaking news without diligent follow up makes no impacts.

However, the perennial shortage in service delivery during hajj operations has made it difficult for Journalists to isolate the genuine, half-baked and adulterated information from pilgrims and hajj administrators. The concept of a balanced story does not rule out a negligible missing gap but to write a story based on a complaint from a single secondary source in an issue that involved over 2,000 pilgrims is simply outrageous.  For instance, let’s assume that the recent picture of breakfast served to FCT pilgrims is the exact picture posted by the Nigerian based Facebook poster.  Does one ration of a food supplied to FCT pilgrims qualify to be termed as “as entire Nigerian pilgrims’ complaints of poor feeding in Saudi Arabia?

Although, the inconsistency and variability in policy announced and implementation have cast doubt in the minds of 2024 Hajj pilgrims. From the Hajj fare to the BTA and to the almost impracticality promised of feeding pilgrims with their preferred local diets. 

An ideal news consumer usually say they want stories that “just give me the facts” and “include both sides” and at the very top of the list will be one word: balance. Often mentioned alongside the word balance are the words “both sides.” These are tricky concepts especially in Hajj Operations, of course. There are usually more than two sides.

There is a story about a practicing Journalist who covered the hajj in 1995. The story was titled “Change of Conditions” The Journalist took out a book from the folds of his clothing to read the order of the rituals of Hajj and the supplications of the Prophet. Then, he started reminding pilgrims of the rules of hajj and they listened to him with rapt attention, their angry expressions changing to cheerful ones and their shouts turning to whispers of remembering Allah the Almighty, praying and asking Him to confer His blessings upon His Messenger. They are encompassed by a cloud of tranquility when recalling the verse in which Allah The Almighty Says (what means): {…And fear Me, O you of understanding…} [Quran 2:197]

Time passed quickly and it was time for the plane to take off. People rushed towards the plane, attempting to precede one another. He allowed them to pass him, while remembering, praising and glorifying Allah The Almighty, thus abiding by the verse (which means): {…and mention the Name of Allah on known days….} [Quran 22:28]

When he entered the plane, he observesd a chaotic scene: everybody is trying to sit in the plane with no order or numbering, even in the first class, whoever bagged the seat and was able to sit there had “won” – or so it seemed. The competition was intense and one brother even started quarrelling with another. For what? For a seat which they would leave after a short while? At this, he remembered the Hadeeth in which the Prophet said:

“‘The Mabroor Hajj has no reward other than Paradise.’ It was said, ‘How can it be Mabroor?’ He said: ‘By feeding the needy and speaking kindly to people.’” So where was ‘kind speech’ in this spectacle? He smiled when he remembered the noble verse which he wanted to act upon and apply (what means): {…but righteousness is [in] one who fears Allah…} [Quran 2:189]

The bottom line is for all Muslims whether pilgrims, hajj administrators or service providers to Always fear Allah in whatever they do because every position we occupy are temporary.

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