The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) is an agency committed to protecting welfare of its staff, stakeholders and other Nigerians of all faiths. This explains why its social outreach initiatives, such as the quiz prize from NTA’s “As You Answer the Call” program is reserved for whoever answers the question first irrespective of creed.
In line, ever since the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, NAHCON had been on the alert, introducing measures that will augment government’s fight against threats of the virus. For instance, early on, immediately after Nigeria’s index case was recorded, an enlightenment document titled Hajj and Umrah in the Face of COVID-19 was written from the Commission in collaboration with board member representing Federal Ministry of Health, Pharm Zainab Ujudud Sheriff. The material, loaded with vital information on health, historical data as well as the stake for Hajj and Umrah, was widely circulated online. Additionally, an info graph was created and shared with readers to aid a joint fight against COVID-19.
Equally, the Commission instructed all states to suspend the annual pilgrims sensitization/enlightenment campaign gatherings as a measure in promoting social distancing. However, each state may continue with the campaigns on electronic, social and print media as the case may be.
Subsequently, Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) in its wisdom prescribed certain measures to contain the spread of the deadly COVID-19 disease. Among these are the lockdown of Abuja, Lagos and Ogun for an initial period of two weeks starting from 11:00pm of Monday 30th of March. Prior to this directive, the Commission had provided thermal scanner in its Hajj House head office and a mandatory hand sanitizer cleansing before gaining entrance into the building by visitors and staff alike. These were part of NAHCON’s contribution towards cutting the spread of the infection in its bud.
Accordingly, this writer, as a concerned Nigerian from NAHCON joins other well-meaning citizens in amplifying FGN’s call on the stay at home order. For the country to succeed in curbing the transmission of COVID-19, we as citizens must shelve aside religious sentiments, political affiliation and tribal emotions in cooperating with government for our collective good.
It is also a call on citizens of other states to adhere strictly to directives of their respective state governments so that we may prevent a replay of the horrendous consequences of a wider spread of the coronavirus as being witnessed in some countries.
FGN’s plan at this stage is the community control strategy knowing that infected humans are now the most potent vectors of the disease. Evidence has shown that containment of COVID-19 spread is by far the cheapest and surest way of defeating the threat of deadly virus. This is because with fewer infected persons, health facilities will not be overstretched, hence permitting the few infectious cases to be eradicated within a short time. This will give government further chances of applying other preventive measures such as disinfecting communities and its involvement in further research on possible vaccine and medication.
Therefore, for our sakes, sake of the aged ones and persons with underlying sicknesses among us who are the most vulnerable, we urge each Nigerian to play their vital roles in bringing a quick end to the transmission of the pandemic in country. Do stay at home, observe social distancing, regular hand washing with soap and water under running water (where available or from a bowl of water being poured down) for 20 seconds, sneezing into the elbow. If one feels unwell, self isolate then call any of the NCDC call centres for help and follow directives. There are other protective measures recommended by Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Federal Ministry of Health and World Health Organization that one should get acquainted with. Strategies put in place in overcoming COVID-19 merits success if we all come together to make it work.
As has been stated by NAHCON Chairman, Alhaji Zikrullah Kunle Hassan, in many fora, as people of faith, NAHCON will continue with its local Hajj preparations pending the hopeful worldwide regression of COVID-19. Even with that, NAHCON’s Chief Executive Officer has assured that the Commission will not jeopardize lives of its primary constituents for any reason. The Commission will continue to monitor global developments on COVID-19 and will work in tandem with global best practices at all times. It is in the light of this that as Muslims, efforts of the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, by extension, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, to protect pilgrims from the harm of COVID-19, despite the economic implication on the country, is highly commended. The Kingdom’s benevolence in giving free prestigious services to over 1,200 Umrah pilgrims affected by the country’s Umrah suspension and free healthcare services to even visa violators is indeed exemplary as an embodiment of Islamic principles.
It is our prayer that the whole world scales through this trying time within the shortest possible time. We pray that all those affected by the virus get well soon while also praying for protection for those in good health.
Usara writes from NAHCON’s Public Affairs Unit.