Abuja: In probably the first of its kind, a Saudi Hajj services firm has refunded SR542,033 - equivalent to N107, 864,567 (US$144,091.30) as it failed to provide adequate and promised services, especially proper food and accommodation, to Nigerian pilgrims who visited Makkah in 2022.
The Mutawwifs or Muassasah as it is popularly known, was forced to refund the amount following a series of representation made by National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON).
“The Mutawwifs or Muassasah, a Saudi government appointed firm, has refunded N107 million to the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) for the poor feeding services rendered by the company for pilgrims from African Non-Arab Countries”, the commission’s spokesperson, Mousa Ubandawaki, said in a statement Tuesday.
“The development was sequel to several letters and reminders by the commission to the company on the poor feeding services during the Masha’ir period”, Ubandawaki has been quoted by News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
More than 2.5 million pilgrims from around the world perform Hajj every year. The Saudi government however curtailed the number of pilgrims in the last three years - 1,000 in 2020, 60,000 in 2021 and 100,000 in 2022, following the outbreak of Covid-19 Pandemic.
However, despite limited number of pilgrims visiting the holy sites of Makkah and Madinah a large number of pilgrims, including those from Nigeria, complained about poor services.
“The 2022 Hajj was marred by poor services rendered by the Muassasah for Nigerian pilgrims, especially feeding during the five-day peak of Hajj”, Ubandawaki
recalled adding this was why NAHCON had sought refund.
Meanwhile, Zikhrullah Hassan, Chairman and the CEO of NAHCON, described the development as heart-warming.
He said it vindicated the commission’s tenacious struggle to right the wrong feeding arrangement and quality of services rendered to Nigerian Pilgrims during the 2022 Hajj by the Muassasah.
“I really want to thank my counterparts from the Mutawwif for this role in ensuring that they refunded the money paid for services not rendered or poorly delivered,” he said.
The Mutawwifs, or Muassasah as it is popularly known, is the Saudi company responsible for the accommodation, transportation, and feeding of Nigerian and other African pilgrims in Mina and Arafat during the five-day Hajj in the Holy Land.
Incidentally, complaints of providing poor services had also been raised against Motawif. Motawif is government appointed Hajj Service and Package provider for pilgrims from United States (US), United Kingdom (UK) and other European Countries besides Australia.
Meanwhile, National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) started receiving application for 2023 Hajj Licence and Slot Allocation from registered Tours and Travel Agencies. The last date of application is January 12, 2023.
"The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) informs all registered Travel Agencies interested in 2023 Hajj Operation that arrangements for licensing and slot allocation have commenced. Interested Travel Agencies are therefore invited to apply for the grant of 2023 Hajj license and slot allocation", NAHCON said.
"All applications, along with the prescribed SECURITY REFUNDABLE DEPOSIT and relevant attachments should be submitted NOT later than 12th of January, 2023", it added.
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