NIGERIAN health authorities intend to start vaccinating 2021 hajj pilgrims on Friday as the country is still planning to allow pilgrimages to Saudi Arabia this year despite the coronavirus pandemic and the dire state of the nation’s finances.
Last year, there were no pilgrimages to Mecca and Medina as the Saudi Arabian authorities cancelled the annual hajj ritual. This year, however, pilgrimages will resume and Nigeria is planning to send pilgrims to the holy land despite the fact that the nation’s economy is reeling from the economic effects of the global pandemic.
Annually, Nigerian state governments and private individuals spent a total of N136.5bn ($376m) on hajj pilgrimages. This is nearly one third of the country’s education budget of N435.01bn ($1.2bn) as Nigeria is one of the top 10 senders of pilgrims to Saudi Arabia with around 100,000 Muslims making the trip each year.
With the restrictions now lifted, intending pilgrims to Saudi Arabia from the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) are to take the first dose of Covid-19 vaccine on Friday. Mallam Muhammad DanMalam, the director of the FCT Pilgrims Board, said they had concluded arrangements to ensure that intending pilgrims fulfil all requirements for this year’s hajj exercise.
Mallam DanMallam added that the FCT Administration Health Secretariat has provided enough vaccines that would be administered to the intending pilgrims from the territory. He stated that the exercise would be carried out at the board headquarters with intending pilgrims from 8am in the morning.
Mallam DanMalam said: “Those from Abuja Municipal Area councils are expected to take their first dose of the vaccine on Tuesday, March 30, while those from Bwari Area Council, would take theirs on Wednesday, March 31. Those from Gwagwalada Area Council are to be vaccinated on Thursday, April 1, to be followed by those from Kuje Area Council who will be vaccinated on Friday April 2.”
He added that those from Kwali Area Council are to be vaccinated on Monday 5, April and those from Abaji Area Council are expected to take their first dose of the vaccine on Tuesday, April 6. Mallam DanMalam assured all pilgrims that the board is working hard to make necessary arrangements for the religious exercise while waiting further directives from the relevant authorities.