Hajj: NAHCON transports 99.2% of Nigerian pilgrims to Saudi – Arabi

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The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), says it has so far transported 99.2 per cent of Nigerian pilgrims to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the 2024 Hajj rites.

The Executive Chairman of NAHCON, Malam Jalal Arabi, made this known at a news conference on the first phase of Hajj operation, held at the Hajj House on Sunday in Abuja.

He said that all pilgrims that NAHCON, states and general stakeholders processed their visa would be transported to Kingdom Saudi Arabia 72 hours before the deadline for the closure of Kingdom air space.

“As of today, we have had 120 flights; we have carried more than 98, close to 99.2 per cent of our pilgrims.

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“And by the end of today, very early morning of Monday, there will be no pilgrim left.

“Everybody will have gone to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia before the deadline normally given by the Saudi Arabia on the closure of their air space.

“In other words, 72 hours before their formal declaration on the closure of their air space.”

Arabi commended President Bola Tinubu and the Vice-President Kashim Shettima for their efforts towards the success of the ongoing hajj operation in the country.

“Of course, we must give credit to the President because he stepped in at that time that matter most.

“He (Tinubu) was an enabler, the Vice-President Shettima was round the clock, a motiveter, he stood by us too. The governors stepped in at that time when we gave up that they won’t.

“And of course, the various states executives of Pilgrims Welfare Boards too did all they could to ensure that we got to where we are today.

“But most pleasing and encouraging are the pilgrims themselves, because they persevered, they were so resilient and, in fact, that tells the story of who we are in Nigeria,” he said.

On his part, the Deputy Director, Aviation, NAHCON, Malam Goni Sanda, disclosed that the transportation of Nigerian pilgrims from Saudi Arabia back to Nigeria would begin on June 21.

Sanda said that all the air carriers have gotten approval and slots for the return journey in line with the principle of first-in-first-out.

“Based on the strategy we adopted this year, since we commenced the transportation of pilgrims to Saudi Arabia, we didn’t allow the air carriers to go with the minimum capacity.

“If you recall, on day one, we started with only three flights, day two three flights and day four, five flights. We moved pilgrims to Saudi Arabia in staggered manner.

“Because, based on the record or history in the return journey, the first week of the return journey used to come with lots of requests and traffic at the Jedda International Airport,” he noted.

He, however, said that the Saudi General Authority on Civil Aviation didn’t give the approval of the adequate number of slots. (NAN)

By Salisu Sani-Idris

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