The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) has inaugurated a Coordinating Committee in Nigeria that will ensure a smooth introduction of Saudi immigration screening of Nigerian pilgrims in the country.
Mrs Fatima Usara, Head of Public Affairs Department at NAHCON, made this known in a statement on Wednesday in Abuja.
The News Agency of Nigeria, (NAN) reports that the initiative is popularly known as the Makkah Route Initiative (MRI).
The initiative, which is a partnership between NAHCON, the Nigerian and Saudi Arabian immigration departments, is to enable the screening of Nigerian pilgrims by Saudi Arabian immigration in Nigeria before departing for Saudi Arabia.
Members of the committee are drawn from the Nigerian Immigration Service, the health sector, national security, aviation agencies and the commission.
Usara said the Executive Chairman of NAHCON, Alhaji Zikrullah Hassan, while inaugurating the committee, described the importance of the assignment as a call to national service that would assist Nigeria in qualifying for implementation of the initiative.
Hassan told members of the committee that part of their responsibilities was to study the MRI qualification requirements and ensure that Nigeria meets the conditions before arrival of the Saudi Arabian inspection team.
He explained that the Saudi team, on arrival, will assess NAHCON’s request and readiness for inclusion in the project.
He said the committee’s terms of reference include, to advice NAHCON on appropriate time to host the Saudi inspection team; to facilitate positive outcome of discussions and inspection of facilities by the Saudi contingent.
He also said that the committee is saddled with the responsibility to advise NAHCON on draft agreement to be signed between the two countries on the the initiative.
“The committee will also guide the commission to scrutinise the initiative for possibility of security breach and advice accordingly.
“Similarly, the committee will make adequate arrangements for the eventual take off; to monitor the project after take-off and guide NAHCON on modification and improvement of scope thereafter.
NAN reports that the initiative is a Saudi Arabia-based project to ease immigration process and other security screening checks in the Kingdom.
Pilgrims from participating countries will not have to undergo another screening upon arrival in Saudi Arabia, instead, they will move straight into their waiting buses that will convey them to their hotels where their luggage will also be delivered.
This is because pilgrims’ luggage will be collected from them from their country’s point of screening.
Five countries have already enrolled into the scheme, which Nigeria wishes to start on an experimental stage.