Abdullahi Mukhtar

The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), has called for patience and understanding from pilgrims as the return airlift for this year’s Hajj exercise commences.

NAHCON chairman, Abdullahi Mohammed, who made the call on Sunday in Makkah at an interactive session with the media, said unlike the inbound journey from Nigeria, the return airlift has some challenges.

Mohammed said while 15 departure centres were used in Nigeria to ferry pilgrims into two airports in Jeddah and Madina in Saudi Arabia, only one, Jeddah airport, is now being used for return journeys.

“Some of the luxuries enjoyed inbound cannot therefore, be expected, besides, Nigeria will alongside other countries of the world used the same airport,” he said.

The NAHCON boss also said when pilgrims were coming into Saudi Arabia, they had their Basic Travel Allowance (BTA), with them, but such must have been depleted now, making them to request for early airlift back home.

He said the Hajj exercise must have also taken its toll on some of the pilgrims owing to trekking long distances.

He said no matter how NAHCON loves to ferry Nigerian pilgrims back home, as early as possible, that can only be done within the slots allocated to the three airlines ferrying the pilgrims.

He added that slots are also often based on arrival arrangements, such that those who came early leave earlier than those who arrived Saudi Arabia late.

He also called on the media to sensitize the pilgrims on the need to adhere strictly to the one 8kg hand luggage allowed.

According to him, carrying multiple hand luggage or more than 8kg could lead to delay and a delay by one passenger could have multiplier effect on flights take off.

Mohammed, who commended the media for the effective coverage of Hajj 2018 also used the opportunity of the interactive session to commend president Muhammadu Buhari for the “passionate concern about the conduct and management of Nigerian pilgrims.”

He said Buhari, his vice, Yemi Osinbajo, and the secretary general of the federation had kept close tabs on how the Hajj operation was going and had “directed, admonished and counsel where necessary to make sure the comfort and welfare of our pilgrims is maintained”.

“The county’s leadership always give appropriate guidance and directive for us to hajj the successful Hajj that we just had,” he said.

Mohammed also thanked the Nigerian ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Isa Dodo and the consul general in Jeddah, Mohammed Yunusa for their support during the Hajj operations.

The NAHCON chairman said overall, Hajj 2018 is a huge success made possible by King Salman and the crown prince, Mohammed Salman as well as several other agencies, both in Nigeria and Saudi Arabia.

Mohammed said although Hajj management has improved tremendously, the commission has observed some lapses and the need to improve on feeding arrangements in Makkah as well the need to centralise accommodation for Nigerian pilgrims also in Makkah.

“There is no excuse for serving pilgrims substandard food and we will improve on our monitoring duties to put a stop to it,” he said.

Mohammed also paid special tribute to the staff of NAHCON as well as the State Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Boards and Agencies, who, he said, are the “engine room” of Hajj operations and without them, a successful Hajj is simply impossible.

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