Who is “bankrolling” Niger state pilgrims’ board?

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Immediate past Chairman of NAHCON, Barr Abdullahi Mukhtar Muhammed and Niger State Deputy Governor, Alhaji Mohammed Ahmed Ketso who represented the Governor during NAHCON award to Hajj Stakeholders in 2019

Ibrahim Muhammed
National Coordinator
Independent Hajj Reporters

This question is premised on the difference between my perception and the reality we meet at the old secretariat of Niger State where the office of Niger State Pilgrims Board is situated. The office houses both the Christian and Muslim Pilgrims Board headed by a board of directors. It was a courtesy visit by Independent Hajj Reporters geared towards creating a partnership in the areas of pilgrim’s enlightenment.

That was the day Independent Hajj Reporters was confronted with a question from a journalist and the question was not ordinary. Who is bankrolling who can land you in trouble water? Who is ‘bankrolling Independent Hajj Reporters he asked and today, I am giving it back to them. So, who is bankrolling the activities of Niger State Pilgrims Board?

Upon our arrival in Mina on 2nd of September the stage has been prepared awaiting ‘the August visitor’ in September “apology to Mallam Umar Maku”.

After the formal introduction and my address, The Executive Secretary of Niger State Pilgrims Board, Mr Umar Maku Lapai begins his welcome address in front of Journalist and cameramen.
As a journalist, I listen with rapt attention with a focus on the areas of my interests.

“The board has six different units. The enlightenment units, the accounting unit, passport control unit, ICT units, General administration unit with each serve as a compliment to others. In Niger state, pilgrims paid for Hajj fare through certified bank draft. One unique feature in Niger is that pilgrims are requested to write the details like name, passport number, telephone number, and local government at the back of their bank draft before submission to avoid swapping and creates internal checks and balance”.

He continued. “Here in Niger State, we operate private Hajj camp which is different from what is obtained in other states. Niger state government sponsors all the activities in the Hajj camp including the personnel. We sponsored over 80% of the activities at Mina international airport. Every year, we mobilize all the agencies to do the job for us. This we have been doing without intervention from any quarter”.

This revelation from the Executive secretary indicates that Niger State is being overburdened in terms of expenses incurred during Hajj operation. Operating a private Hajj camp during airlifts of pilgrims where states board paid for every service rendered? Where do they get the money? Who is ‘bankrolling or cashrolling NSPWB? If the above is true, then Niger State Government deserves special recognition from NAHCON and other Hajj stakeholders.

Besides, Alh Maku told Hajj Reporters that “Niger state government has acquired a large portion of land for the building of permanent Hajj camp through the development levy projects” and that they are only waiting for NAHCON team to arrive to formalize the arrangement.

The reforms being undertaken by the boards may have the tacit support of the State Governor because after the 2017 Hajj operations, Niger Gov Abubakar Sani-Bello Niger State promised to restructure the pilgrim’s board for efficient service delivery. A statement signed by Jibrin Baba Ndace, the then Special Assistant to the Governor on Media hinged the Governors stance on lapses observed during Hajj 2017 exercise.
In that reports, Alhaji Shehu Umar Danyaya. who was the immediate past Secretary to the State government and the Amir Hajj during hajj 2017 called for restructuring and capacity building for the board’s management for efficient service delivery in future. The Amirul Hajj also advised that the Executive Secretary of the board should be a career civil servant who can effectively translate and transmit the policies of the government to the board” The recommendation might have been effected and the results are thereof.

The administrative structure in Niger state pilgrims board was carefully restructured into different departments with a check and balance linkage to ensure efficient coordination of Hajj activities. We were taken around the offices with the head of each department give us a tit and bits of how it operates.

Hajj 2020 pilgrim’s 32 kg and 8 kg suitcases have been supplied and kept in the warehouse before the COVID 19 cancelled out Hajj 2020 operations.

“The boards operate on a zone by zone and pilgrims from each zone have a different colour of the file in the office. A blue file is for pilgrims in Zone A and green file filed the documents of pilgrims in Zone B and Yellow file housed details of each pilgrim from Zone C. Sorting of pilgrims database has been made easy and reduce the possibility of interchange of pilgrims”

Do you know who an administrative genius is? It’s someone who knows and implements one more thing about administration than you do. In the administrative world, what I experienced in Niger State Muslim Pilgrims Boards is referred to as “expertise gap.”
Expertise gap is the gap between someone else’s knowledge and experience and your knowledge and experience in a given area.

To broaden their communication skill, Niger State Pilgrims boards is conducting Arabic lecture for its staff on weekly basis and a periodic staff capacity building exercise. He revealed his plan to swap the staff from one unit to another to make them an all-rounder in terms of Hajj services.

Alh Maku said they have broken the states into three Zone. Zone A with 8 local government, zone b with 9 and zone C with another 8 local governments” There is also Headquarters pilgrims meant for cater for the people in the city who may not able to book for a seat like VIPs.

However, while the board has laid a good administrative structure platform for hajj operations, it must strive hard to improve in the areas of media relations and staff motivations. Motivations are not limited to financial doll out or promotion. It connotes periodic shows of appreciations to those who have excelled.
Motivation can facilitate the self-development of individual staff at the board. Once he/she meets some initial targets, they realise the clear link between effort and results, which will further motivate them to continue at a high level.

Most importantly, an employee’s efficiency level is not only based on their abilities or qualifications. There is a need to have a good balance between the ability to perform the task given and willingness to want to perform the task. This balance can lead to an increase in productivity and an improvement in efficiency.

It is my suggestion that Niger State Pilgrims boards explore the possibility of sponsoring a weekly radio or television programs to educate the public on the activities of the beards as this will help promotes its image.

As stated during Hajj Reporters opening address, the boards should put a thinking cap on how to be self-reliance in terms of finance. Hajj operations is going digital and the existence of state pilgrims board will depend on how they can operate without goes cap in hand to government for financial needs.

It should be noted that during the 2019 Hajj Stakeholder meeting, the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) honoured the Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello with the prestigious award of the “Most Supportive State Governor to Pilgrims Welfare”.

The award ceremony which took place at the Stakeholders Meeting on 2019 Hajj at Conference Hall of the National Mosque in Abuja was in appreciation by the Commission of the untiring and unparallel commitments and efforts of Governor Sani Bello at ensuring the welfare of pilgrims to and in the Holyland during pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia. Deputy Governor, Alhaji Mohammed Ahmed Ketso represented the governor at the ceremony.

In the same vein, Independent Hajj Reporters bestowed an award to Niger State pilgrim’s board as the Best State in Pilgrim’s Welfare during 2019 Hajj.

Finally, the structure has been laid but the board must work hard to translate it to efficient Hajj service delivery.

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