Saudi Arabia’s National Hajj Commission (NAHCON) highlighted Nigeria as a model Hajj participant at a Makkah event recognising the contributions of African non-Arab countries to the 2014 operation.

Africa’s most populous nation witnessed 76,000 of its citizens perform this year’s Hajj amid strict security and health procedures in the wake of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, though Nigeria has since been declared free from disease.

Nigeria as a whole was commended for the both conduct of its pilgrims, while two of Nigeria’s states, Kano and Sokoto, were singled out for their efficient management of pilgrims within Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifah under the guidance of the Taraduddiyah system.

Dr Saleh Okenwa, NAHCON commissioner for research and planning, expressed his encouragement over the fact that the Taraduddiyah system was “bearing fruit”, and hoped that more states would likely be selected for the award next year.

Ladan Ibrahim, administrative director for the Pilgrims Welfare Board of Sokoto, noted that Nigeria’s pilgrims were “law-abiding citizens that followed the rules and regulations.”

Kano representative Lamini Rabiu concuured: “We are being motivated to continue to work hard for the comfort of our pilgrims and the promotion of Nigeria as a country of law-abiding citizens.”

Hosted by the “Establishment of Mutawifs for Pilgrims” from African Non-Arab Countries, the event also recognised Dr Saheed Ahmad Rufai, a social sciences lecturer at Lagos State University (LASU), for his efforts to enhance dialogue between members through translation and interpretation.

Dr Saheed in turn thanked Dr Ameer Qattani, Hajj director for the Ministry, and Dr Abdul Wahid Saifuddin, chairman of the African Establishment, “for giving me the opportunity to serve the guests of Allah and also for according me the honour to address the dignitaries.”

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The LASU don also used the occasion to demonstrate his erudition by reciting a selection of Arabic poetry celebrating the uniqueness of Hajj as an Islamic pillar, to the delight of the Saudi audience.

He concluded by noting that “the award is not only prestigious, but ennobling and dignifying, and a call to more dedicated services to Islam and humanity.”

The Hajj mission heads of a wide range of African countries were present at the event, and awards were also handed down to Ethiopia, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, and South Africa.