WELCOME, NIGERIA’S HAJJ SAVINGS SCHEME-By Bala Muhammad

Bala Mohammed writes on the new policy of Hajj initiated by the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria NAHCON in partnership with Ja’iz Bank.

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WELCOME, NIGERIA’S HAJJ SAVINGS SCHEME
by
Bala Muhammad
balamuhammad@hotmail.com
On Thursday last week, the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON)
launched one of the most-awaited items on the Nigerian Muslim Agenda – the Hajj
Savings Scheme (HSS), a historic milestone in the Commission’s masterplan and a
scheme that has taken many years to build. Although it is said ‘better late than
never’, a savings scheme like this should have been in place for at least since the Hajj
business began in Nigeria, and that was a long time ago.
But alhamdu lilLah, NAHCON has finally made it on this all-important scheme that
could see to the revolutionising of the affairs of Nigerian pilgrimage, as well as
providing a needed impetus to make Muslims inculcate the habit and mindset of
saving the halal way. As expected, Ja’iz Bank, Nigeria’s premier Islamic financial
institution, has been selected to manage the HSS on behalf of the Commission.
Therefore, the launching and signing of agreement between NAHCON and Ja’iz Bank
nine days ago were important steps towards a long and hopefully successful
endeavour.
The Hajj Savings Scheme, according to the Commission, will create an avenue for
intending Nigerian Muslim pilgrims to save towards fulfilling one of the pillars of
Islam; going on Hajj (pilgrimage to the holy lands of Makkah and Madina). The
scheme provides for intending pilgrims to go for Hajj from Nigeria, irrespective of
their income, locality and status. The scheme shall assist low income earners and the
general public to save at their convenience towards meeting their goal of going on
pilgrimage.
Modelled after Malaysia’s Tabung Haji (TH), which has been in existence for over
half a century, the Nigerian version has a vision of creating a platform that will ease
Hajj enrolment for Nigerian pilgrims in such a way that even the poorest Muslim will
have the opportunity of performing Hajj through self-sponsorship. This will be made
possible through a gradual deposit of monies that will be invested on behalf of the
depositor until it reaches the desired amount for Hajj fare.
Launching the scheme September 10, both NAHCON Chairman Barrister Zikrullah
Kunle Hassan and Ja’az Bank Chairman Alhaji Umaru Mutallab were full of hope, for the scheme to come on stream in their (and our) lifetime, praying Allah to bless the
initiative and the funds to be managed therefrom.
The idea to set up a Hajj Pilgrims’ Savings Scheme in Malaysia, which brought
Tabung Haji, was triggered by a proposal made by in 1959 by renowned Malay
economist, Professor Abdul Aziz Abdul Hamid, to the Malaysian Federal Government
for the establishment of such a venture. And the government accepted – and Tabung
Haji was born. Now, 61 years later, Nigeria is following suit.
Prior to the establishment of Tabung Haji in Malaysia, there was no Islamic financial
institution that provided services to the country’s Muslim population to save for hajj
expenses. Even though several banks were already operating, the Muslims were
reluctant to use conventional banking for their Hajj Savings because they wanted to
ensure that their Hajj savings were free from riba (usury) in order to attain a Mabrur (accepted)
Hajj.
Malaysia’s TH, which began in September 1963, grew from three bank branches to
over a hundred branches; from 1,281 initial depositors in 1963 to over 9 million
depositors today, plus over 1.8 billion dollars in revenue. It has 125 branches and
more than 10,000 touch-points, as they call micro-branches. The target of Nigeria’s
Hajj Savings Scheme is to achieve and surpass this. NAHCON believes it is
achievable in view of the numerical advantage Nigeria enjoys relative to Malaysia’s.
Tabung Haji has today become a gigantic economic and financial institution adding
value to the economy of Muslims and facilitating the performance of Hajj for the poor
who could save, little by little, over many years to be able to fulfil this fifth pillar of
Islam – pilgrimage.
Monies deposited under the Nigerian HSS will be invested in Shari’a compliant
ventures with profits credited to the depositor according to Islamic formula of profit
sharing. The Commission’s prognosis is that, with Hajj Savings Scheme, the future of
pre-planned Hajj is here. On the part of Hajj administrators, a pre-planned Hajj will
facilitate Hajj arrangement years in advance. It will be goodbye to projective
planning (for unspecified number of people) due to delay in Hajj fare remittance.
A pre-planned Hajj on the part of the depositor means an investor may select the year
he or she plans to undertake the Hajj trip regardless of the fact the required amount
had been met. The depositor’s profit will continue to accrue notwithstanding.
Pre-planned Hajj means an intending pilgrim does not have to sell himself into
poverty due to yearning to worship His Lord on Arafat day, but to save gradually and patiently for his return. With pre-planned Hajj, priority for Hajj slots will be given to depositors under the
scheme on the basis of first-comers whose funds had reached the required amount. For
example, if Nigeria’s allocated slot is 95,000 and 100,000 have qualified, priority will
be given to the first 95 that have met the target if they desire to perform the Hajj
that year. The remaining depositors will then be rolled-over to subsequent years. Of
course, the cash and carry Hajj slot will still be available, but with conditions.
The HSS is expected to contribute to the Nigerian economy in various ways such as
utilizing otherwise dormant funds and through tax generation. It is also a means of
empowering state pilgrims’ welfare boards with revenue for maximum productivity.
Hopefully, zakat that will accrue from the profits will be used as social safety net to
serve the Muslim community and by extension, the Nigerian public.
The scheme is currently coming in collaboration with Ja’iz bank during this first
phase. At a later time when all necessary governmental procedures are finalised,
NAHCON, under HSS trustees, will be sole manager of the scheme. To enrol,
interested persons may do so through their various States’ Muslim Pilgrims’ Welfare
Boards, NAHCON Zonal Offices, closest Ja’iz Bank branches or online from the
comfort of their rooms through NAHCON website.
It is the hope of Nigerian Muslims that NAHCON’ s HSS will perfectly mirror
Malaysia’s TH in strengthening the economy of the Ummah, consolidating and
enriching depositors’ funds and, ultimately, facilitatimg and assisting pilgrims achieve a Hajj Mabrur in sha Allah.

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