No fewer than 81,000 Nigerian pilgrims performed this year’s hajj which was 10,000 higher than the number of pilgrims that participated in the 2016 Hajj.
75,000 were from various States Pilgrims Board and 16,200 from Independent private tour operators.
Nigeria ranked fifth among countries with the highest number of pilgrims but the arrangement by the board was not well structured.
About 300 Katsina State pilgrims rejected the accommodation secured for them by the state Pilgrims Welfare Board in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.
This is because the pilgrims were said to be allotted hotels that lacked basic facilities for human habitation. Some of the pilgrims also refused to go into the rooms allotted to them at the Dar al Sa’adatu wal Khair hotel, and instead camped at the Katsina state office in Mecca, where they passed the night.
The pilgrims claimed most of the rooms had no air conditions and adequate toilets, with as many as 15 people expected to share one toilet facility.
As a result, the thorny issue of whether or not government at all levels should use taxpayers’ money to sponsor few individuals wanting to observe yearly pilgrimage to Mecca or Jerusalem has been raised once more.
Not long ago, there was also a debate on whether or not to scrap the Pilgrims Board because government at all levels spends huge amount of money sponsoring people to these countries whether they are qualified or not.
Some people go on pilgrimage more as tourists than as pilgrims and over the years, voices from both faiths have spoken against government’s sponsorship of pilgrimage, which they believe should be seen as a personal religious exercise.