BY COBHAM NSA, ABUJA – The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), and the country’s premier non-interest financial institution, Jaiz Bank Plc, have signed a Hajj Savings Scheme pact to assist Muslims in the country easily perform the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia.

The scheme is enshrined in NAHCON Establishment Act 2006 as a contributory payment scheme for prospective Muslim faithful wishing to undertake Holy Pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia.

Chairman of Jaiz Bank, Alhaji (Dr.) Umaru Abdul Mutallab and Managing Director Hassan Usman signed the agreement on behalf of the bank while Chairman and Chief Executive of NAHCON, Alhaji Zikrullah Kunle Hassan, stood in for the Hajj Commission.

According to Jaiz Bank Managing Director, Hassan Usman, the scheme was aimed at making hajj more accessible to “our Muslim Ummah.”

He said with this scheme, intending pilgrims can now save for hajj overtime and specify when they intend to go for Hajj. A dedicated portal is now open for intending pilgrims to open accounts and start saving until that period they are ready to perform the Hajj exercise without hassle.

Hassan Usman said the Hajj Savings Scheme perfectly matches what Jaiz Bank stands for as “the main purpose of setting up the bank is to meet the aspirations of Muslim Ummah. We are liberalizing and enabling everybody to go for Hajj.”

He said because the bank is committed to the success of the scheme, a unit has been created to specifically handle the Hajj Saving Scheme process while a robust IT infrastructure to make it easier is being put in place.

On his part, NAHCON Executive Chairman, Alhaji Zikrullahi Hassan said the agreement is an innovation designed to fast-track the scheme’s implementation.

Hassan explained that the agreement was a step towards securing the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)’s license for the operation of the scheme as a full fledged model.

According to him, the scheme would also boost economic growth, entrench culture of savings among low income groups and lift people out of poverty.

He said every Muslim faithful, who intended to perform the Hajj could be enroled in the scheme through the Pilgrims’ Welfare Board in all the 36 states, agencies and commissions or NAHCON offices across the country.

Explaining that the scheme will help subsidize Hajj payment and ensure long term strategic planning that enables intending pilgrims to make “deposit at their convenient, the NAHCON boss said; “Enrolment can also be done directly from the comfort of room by logging into the dedicated site of the scheme.

“Subscribers can also deposit at their convenience, and the amount they want to contribute over a specific period to be determined by them.

“Deposits made will be invested in low risk Sharia-compliant product which will be monitor by the commission and profit share among stakeholders.

“In line with the provision of NAHCON ACT, 2006 and in consultation with the board, we shall in due course constitute a Board of Trustees to be submitted to the government,’’ Hassan said.

Speaking at the event, Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Boss Mustapha, advised Muslim faithful to imbibe the saving culture and long-term planning in order to key into the Hajj family.

Mustapha, represented by the Permanent Secretary, General Service, Office of the SGF, Olusegun Adekunle, charged the board and management of NAHCON to secure the CBN license in order to deploy the full-fledged scheme under a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV).

He said promoting national cohesion and social inclusion was one of the core principles upon which the present administration’s Economic Growth Recovery Plan (ERGP) was built.

Expressing government’s resolve to encourage programmes with positive socio-economic impact on Nigerians, the SGF said the Hajj Savings Scheme is one of such programmes, adding; “The success of similar schemes in some countries gives us the hope that Nigeria by virtue of its population, constituting one of the largest Hajj contingents will succeed in this endeavour.”

He said the arrangement is also expected to usher in a new era in the history of Hajj management to meet and possibly surpass the best in the world today.

“It is my sincere hope that all stakeholders in this scheme will give their all so that Nigeria will not only have a scheme which we can be proud of, but one that others will learn from,’’ the SGF said.

In his remarks at the occasion, the Chairman Board of Trustees, Jaiz Bank, Alhaji Umar Mutallab, said the bank was committed to the success of the scheme.

He said the agreement was a significant milestone in terms of hajj operations in Nigeria as the implementation of the scheme would positively impact every stakeholder.

“With the scheme, intending pilgrims can plan and actualize their dreams by saving gradually as more people would be empowered to go for hajj”, he said.

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