The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) has allayed fears of intending pilgrims on the likelihood of missing this year’s Hajj, after last year’s botched pilgrimage due to COVID-19 pandemic.

This followed a statement by Saudi Ministry of Health which suggested that only 60,000 pilgrims, including residents and foreigners, would be allowed to perform this year’s Hajj.

Many were apprehensive that they might not be able to perform the exercise because Nigeria could get little allocation.

About 2.5 million pilgrims performed Hajj in 2019, while a fraction of 1,000 pilgrims attended last year’s Hajj due to COVID-19 crowd control restrictions put in place by Saudi Arabia.

In a statement in Lagos, NAHCOM’s Head of Public Affairs, Fatima Sanda Usara, explained that the Saudi Ministry of Health’s statement was just a suggestion.

It said: “However, the commission would like to draw the attention of Nigerians that the finality of Hajj guidelines will come from the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, which will either endorse the released guidelines or issue the final position of the kingdom, contrary to what has been so far released by the Ministry of Health, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

“Therefore, until the said Ministry of Hajj and Umrah releases the guidelines on its website and formally communicates to Nigeria, NAHCON urges the public to consider the information being circulated as guidelines for 2021 Hajj as inconclusive.

The commission will not fail to keep the public updated as soon as an official stand is finalised by the kingdom.

“NAHCON understands the anxious wait by the public, especially by Hajj and Umrah stakeholders regarding 2021, in order to make their final decisions and preparations. The commission trusts that Saudi Arabia is considerate of all happenings and will soon make a proclamation on Hajj 2021 in the interest of all Muslims as promised.”

The commission urged Hajj stakeholders and intending pilgrims to be patient and accept in good faith whatever decision Saudi Arabia will take on this year’s Hajj.