Responsibility of a Pilgrims’ officer during Hajj Operations

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By Abubakar Usman Yusuf


A pilgrim officer in whatever nomenclature he is been referred to elsewhere, be it center officer, area officer, occupies an important role in hajj operations and management. The role of a pilgrim officer is in a nutshell, one of a nucleusas in human life or atomic weaponry. The need forhajj extension services to make hajj services to the remotest of the remote Muslims and Muslim areas in Nigeria as a cardinal objective of hajj management in Nigeria is one reason the pilgrim officer services is provided for in the scheme and structure of our hajj affairs.

In order to have a better glimpse of the role of a pilgrim officer, it is important to showcase the structure of hajj operations and define the position of the pilgrim officer and how he relates in this noble service of the guests of Allah.

In the management of hajj operations, the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) is at the apex and regulatory position. It is saddled with the disbursement of and allocation of hajj slots. NAHCON coordinates and oversees the entire hajj operations in line with broad national objectives. Below the structural ladder are the State Muslim Pilgrim Welfare Boards (SMPWB), agencies, Commissions and tour operators. These were established by respective states, institutions like the police and military and then private concerns as recognized and licensable by NAHCON. While the states, private tour operators and military establishments are at the center stage in the structure of hajj in Nigeria. Thestate hajj boards and commissions were established by respective edicts and laws of the states, the military and police hajj boards were established by peculiar byelaws of those institutions just as the private tour operators were established by the articles and memoranda of the businesses in line with CAMA 1990.

In pursuance of the grand objective of providing hajj services through to the grassroots, the State Pilgrim welfare boards, as mandated by the NAHCON and in line with their desires for internal spread and outreach, operate pilgrim offices in respective local government areas and administrative zones. Such offices are manned by the staff of the boards called Pilgrim Officers or Center Officers.  They are required to be officers of proven integrity and dedication to the service of the guests of Allah among other qualities due to the nature of the job they do.

Police and Armed Forces hajj services are not in tandem with states where local governments exist. But they have formations to which the structure can follow with functional pilgrim officers to coordinate hajj service in other formations rather than just Lagos or Abuja which should operate as headquarters. This will help fulfil the objective of penetration hajj services down to the grassroots or the armed forces themselves without impediments as opposed to centralization which the armed forces pilgrim affairs seem to follow.

Tour operators may not be bound by the regulatory objective of reaching out to the grassroots since their motive is profit making through provision of premium services to the desirous. However, growth and expansion of business rather than inertia are the ultimate goals of private businesses. The pursuance of growth and expansion objectives could see private hajj tour businesses crossing their traditional frontiers and establishing branches and contact centers in more and more areas as they grow. And the officers or agents in charge of branches would be more like pilgrim officers in a private setting.



The role of the pilgrim officer here will follow a narrative in sequence of hajjs segments and events as follows:



Pilgrim officers are by default saddled with the implementation of hajj policies and guidelines as handed down by their state or via their states. Whatever policy or program that has been hatched by SMPWBs, NAHCON or the Saudis which has bearing on the pilgrims directly is passed down for implementation to pilgrim offices at the grassroots levels. Pilgrim officers it is who makes it easy for intending pilgrims to understand what is required of them and to ensure compliance.


PREPARATIONS FOROPERATIONAL SEASONS: Hajj Savings scheme enrolments and sales

A pilgrim officer is the foot soldier in hajj management and operations. He combines mandates, discretionary powers, due care and skills to implement all the policies, programs, laws and initiatives bearing on hajj in the field. By nature of his position, he interacts with the intending pilgrims and all grassroots stakeholders. In states with higher number of pilgrims, a pilgrim officer manages as much as 500 number of pilgrims.

From the onset of a hajj season, a pilgrim officer keeps tab with the people within and without his local government or area as the case may be. Intending pilgrims, governments administrations, traditional and religious leaders call to his office to obtain information on the year’s arrangements. He relates with them on that. He sometimes organizes local get together to sensitize the local public on issues of concern beforehand.The pilgrim officer passes relevant snippets of information passed down from above to help the public to understand an digest them and as well comply.

When the operation is ready to begin, pilgrim officers informs the local public through the stakeholders and media on what and what is required of them in terms of the travel documents, payments and other issues. He designs the process of sales of hajj seats or enrolments into hajj savings scheme and liaises with the local government and security agencies in passing information, organizing the sales and security of the process.


Pilgrim officers organize sales or disbursement of hajj slots to intending pilgrims. They liaise with stakeholders and security agencies to achieve a hitch free exercise in line with the dynamics involve. They ensure spread of hajj seats within wards and districts, villages and units under their domain.

The important requirement of ensuring that only Muslims of sound mind and knowledge, matured and heathy, crime records free and capable are allowed to go for hajj are ensured by the pilgrim officer first before a pilgrim is registered as an intending pilgrim. This is done through subjecting intending pilgrims to interviews and quizzing to determine compliance and conformity with all requirements. Where the pilgrim officer is satisfied with the suitability of an intending pilgrim, he registers him provisionally and collects his payment in the specified mode and issues him with a receipt of payments.



Upon been satisfied by the outlook of an intending pilgrim and having received the specified sum, a pilgrim officer is saddled with the responsibility of registering such a pilgrim provisionally. The pilgrim is given a predesigned format to fill or assisted to fill where he is unable. A file is opened and kept in respect of the pilgrim.


Like any other office, pilgrim offices maintain a number of staff who assist the pilgrim officer in discharging the responsibilities of the office. The officer receives hajj slots allocations from his state headquarters and plans how to distribute it among the public in his area. Registrations of pilgrims lasts as local hajj slots allocations last. Some states do batch by batch intermittent release of slots for strategic reasons and which are observed in pilgrim offices. Pilgrim officers keep and maintain records of payments by pilgrims and the installment payments that follow. Relevant data of pilgrims are generated in predesigned formats which intending pilgrims are asked to fill and which gets inputted into state and/ or NAHCON data bases. Pilgrim officers return all payments they collect in respect of  intending pilgrims to their respective headquarters i.e SPWBs for onward action. They also do periodic reconciliations with designated officers of their SMPWBs. It is the role of the pilgrim officer to account for all payments, remittances, issues to pilgrims and status of pilgrim process. Issues of withdrawal, replacements, deaths of intending pilgrims are accountable by the P.Os.


It is the responsibility of pilgrim officers to ensure that all pilgrims under their domains are adequately educated and enlightened on hajj and related matters to enable them perform the rights of hajj as is required of them. Enlightenment does not stop at rituals alone, intending pilgrims are equipped with other necessary ideas that have to do with hajj. Issues like pilgrim hygiene and health guides, airports and aircrafts, exchange rates, preservation of money and positions, luggage handling, feminine and masculine peculiar challenges, operating lifters and riding escalators and how to respond in fire incidences and stampedes. Practical hajj trainings on the rituals and other vital aspects of hajj are given. Pilgrims are exposed to does and don’ts, operational issues and simulations and iconic modelling of all situations from beginning to return and post return activities like luggage claiming, refunds processing and collections if any etc. Trainings are rendered to the pilgrims in their local languages and minority languages are also taken care of.

Pilgrim officers identify suitable resource persons for each aspect of the training and assign them to do it under their guidance. Volunteers and paid resource persons are involved in various exercises.


The intending pilgrims, having been trained and equipped with the requisite training, are subject to final evaluation to ensure they are fully prepared and suitable for the expedition. A screening team comprising the representatives of the Ulamaa community to ensure spiritual readiness, security agencies like the Police, D.S.S to ensure crime-free records and the immigrations officials to ensure compliance with immigration concerns, the pilgrims office to oversee the conduct and take action on observations by the committee, women groups to attend to feminine issues and then medical personnel to examine the health fitness and health claims of intending pilgrims including issues on pregnancies. The committee makes observations and recommendations in respect of each pilgrim to the pilgrim officer who reports cases requiring action to the board.


The processing of and issuances of all pilgrim materials and items were done through designated pilgrim officers. Forms, kits, I.D cards, uniform materials, kinds of literature and other audiovisuals from NAHCON OR SMPWBs are collected and issued to pilgrims by pilgrim officers who ensure that recipients satisfy conditions for such issuances. Conditions like completion of required payments, scaling through screenings and other conducts. Free materials from donors are vetted and scrutinized by pilgrim officers and forwarded to the headquarters for approval before been distributer to the intending pilgrims. This is important to curb the spread of malicious ideas among intending pilgrims. Such materials may end up vitiating the quality of hajj or bring them in conflict with operational conveniences.

Pilgrim officers coordinate the processing of their pilgrim BTAs and travel documents including visa issuances. They ensure that all pilgrims who have fulfilled all the conditions of the board are issued with visas and other documents like yellow cards, health certificates, royalties and flight tickets. They pair female intending pilgrim to their mahrims and ensure they are batched in the same aircraft to the trip in fulfilment of Saudi conditions.

Travel plans are relayed to pilgrims by their officers who convey them to hajj camps and coordinate the issuance of the BTAs and the correctness of the BTA’s in line with what the pilgrims subscribe to. All errors are sorted out by the pilgrim officer and the BTA officers.


Special collections like the hadaya are done through the pilgrim officers who inform the pilgrims of the specified amounts and encourage them to pay. The issue the pilgrims with receipts and account for the collections. Pilgrim officers help keep pilgrims away from fraudsters who collect their monies and fail to do the sacrifices for them.


The pilgrim officer ensures that pilgrims are ready and at the hajj camp. He coordinates their collection of all necessary documents and readiness. He also ensures that they are situated in safe zones where they cannot be defrauded or have their possessions stolen. He keeps vigil to ensure their relative comfort and ease of camp and airport checks. Lost items are returned to their owners through their pilgrim officers.

Pilgrim officers are expected to join their pilgrims in the same flight or have a capable hand accompany the pilgrims. The proxy reports to the P.O until they alight. The destination checks are facilitated by pilgrim officers along with NAHCON and SPWB officials stationed at the destination airports to assist the pilgrims. Where cases of loses of passports and or royalties, deportations occur or any other issue, these are been looked after by the pilgrim officers.


The grouping of pilgrims to form numbers conveyable by busses to Makkah or Madinah as the case may be are done and pilgrim officers guide such processes and help the pilgrims to pair up.


Upon arrival at respective destinations, pilgrims are paired into rooms with active assistance of pilgrim officials with help from pilgrim officers who also work to keep records of floors and rooms where pilgrims are housed for easy trace. Sorting of male female pilgrims for separate accommodations. The P.O’s as they are often called will go round routinely to know how the pilgrims are doing and assist them in any way they may need help, including sending them to hospitals and informing the authorities on their conditions, referrals, admissions The P.O oversees his pilgrim feeding arrangements ensuring that everyone is covered.

Pilgrim officers also work to ensure that accommodation providers and others, stick to contractual terms like regular provision of Zamzam, working lifters and electricity, cleaning and maintenance of the houses, fire alarm and systems functionality etc Feeding of pilgrims by contractors are observed by pilgrim officers and abberations are reported.


In states where tents are demarcated against local government areas and the male/female areas, the officers join advance teams to the areas to take stock and allocate the tents in order of the divides. Each officer supplies the number of pilgrims under his care and the ratio of male female for the allocations to be made. Upon allocation, he puts the tents in order and arranges the matrasses and places the banners indicating his local government reserved tents. On the day pilgrims move to Mina and Arafat, he also advances before the pilgrims or assign an assistant or volunteer to do so. The assistant or officer is to receive the pilgrims of the local government and settle them in their reserved places.


Thuraddudiyya is an Arabic word for the new shuttle bus system, a system that has been designed to do away with the past troubles of getting to the core hajj ritual areas as Muna, Arafat and return. The system which has helped facilitate early, safe and convenient arrival and of pilgrims to the precise designated arears as opposed to the previous experiences by which many pilgrims don’t make it to such places or get there with immense difficulty with some records of injuries and losses of life. The system requires cooperation among all stakeholders from authorities to the pilgrim and everyone. Pilgrim officers help pacify their pilgrims and give them assurances and help them to cooperate. The coordinate their movements with authorities.


There are states that pay only a percentage of pilgrim BTA before embarkation and the balance after Arafat. It is a strategic action aimed at curtailing problems to do with loss of BTA, spend thrifts, pilgrim extravagance cases which leaves the pilgrim with nothing to live on during their stay and a liability to other pilgrims and the authorities which results in restiveness among pilgrims. Such balances are paid by the pilgrim officers to the pilgrims at the comfort of their accommodations.  Equally, any other payment due to the pilgrims, like state government or other stakeholder gifts (Goron Sallah) are relayed to the pilgrims via the pilgrim officers. P.Os also collect and hand 32kg bags to the pilgrims to enable them package their possessions and gifts. The bags are later retrieved and submitted to the carriers in preparation for the return journey. The officer ensures that the package meets the required specifications.


The return journey is replete with many activities which are handled or coordinated by the pilgrim officer like working with the Muassasahs in the sorting of pilgrim e-passports in order of busses, profiling the busses in order of their arrival, verifying and correction of errors, mobilization of pilgrims for returns, pasting of lists of returnees, fast racking the return of critically sick and approved early returnees, pre-airport inspection of handbags and compliance with baggage quantities. The officer ensures that each pilgrim is evacuated when he is due. Emergent problems during a procession of pilgrims to the airport for final return are referred to the pilgrim officer forthwith. The pilgrim officer coordinates the reception of pilgrims at the airports, their feeding and welfare until the leave the holly land.


Post return activities like retrieval of baggage, complain about baggage are handled and treated by the pilgrim officers. Where there is any refund coming from NAHCON or state, the P.O processes them and payback such monies to respective returnees and maintains a record for the exercise.


Local hajj operational feedbacks are elicited from the P.O via the post-mortem reports he writes by which he reports on all the segments of the operations, highlighting the problems and important gains with relevant recommendations to help improve future hajj. The recommendation that comes from the P.Os, if done properly, maybe the most important ingredient that can shape hajj in Nigeria especially where customer service delivery is at the front burners.


A pilgrim officer is a perfect interface between anybody and the pilgrim.As the leader, manager or closest pilgrim handler, the pilgrim officer works with whoever is there that has a function or service to deliver to the pilgrims. From the regulators, state officials, coordinators, security both home and abroad, medics and hospitals, air carriers, volunteers, banks and accommodation providers, preachers, and whoever that is there is that needs to relate with the pilgrims easily and successfully.

Other people involve in officiating the hajj like guides, medical officials and others, regularly make recourse to the pilgrim officers on issues surrounding the pilgrims.


There must be erring pilgrims no matter what is been done or put in place. Tracking of unruly pilgrims and pilgrims who exhibit criminal behavior is done by their pilgrim officers who know the pilgrim better. The pilgrim officers constantly warn pilgrims against bad conducts to avoid the wrath of the law.


Pilgrims require persistent admonishments and reminders on what they are out for. This is a role pilgrim officer plays personally and or through the use of ulamas in the team. The P.O identifies areas requiring admonishments through his personal observation or feelers among the pilgrims. He then work with the preachers to deploy the right persons to address issue from the religious angle.



The pilgrim officer is the frontlines man who is in direct contact with the pilgrim in all angles. Pilgrims both old and young, accustom and new knows nobody but their officer and in whom they bestow all their trust. Whatever is their problem, the pilgrim officer is the solution and hope. Whatever he tells them is their truth and deal. Issues of pilgrim restiveness easily get managed by pilgrim officers mostly before the manifest and while they are in the pipeline. When pilgrims are engage in any act of disobedience or strife, the moment they see their pilgrim officers they stop or hide. This is so especially where the officer is diligent, sincere and up to the task.

Yusuf is of Kaduna State Muslim Pilgrims welfare Board



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