President Muhammadu Buhari has flagged-off the commencement of airlift of intending Muslim pilgrims in for the 2019 hajj exercise to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
“The hajj presents us with a unique opportunity for self-reflection, imbibe the spirit of brotherhood and tolerance in order to foster unity in diversity as reflected in the spirit of the hajj rites,” Buhari said on Wednesday evening at the Umaru Musa Yar’Adua International Airport in Katsina, venue of the flag-off ceremony.
Katsina State governor, Alhaji Aminu Bello Masari, represented him at the ceremony and read Buhari’s address.
According to the president, “over three million people from about 180 countries, speaking different languages and performing the same rites at the same time is a great lesson in unity to humanity.
“The dressing of the rich and the poor, the king and the servant, the mighty and the low, in the same simple attire, reminds us of our equality before the law.
“I implore you to make the best out of the hajj experience and improve on your relationship with your creator and discharge your duties to your country as responsible citizens. Nigeria needs your prayers now more than ever before.”
Buhari urged the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) to ensure that Nigerian pilgrims are well taken care of in Saudi Arabia.
Earlier in his remarks, the NAHCON Chairman, Abdullahi Mukhtar Muhammad, urged the intending pilgrims to strictly abide by all the rules and regulations from the Saidu government concerning the hajj exercise.
He reminded them of the prohibition of kola nuts in Saudi Arabia as, according to the NAHCON chairman, “for the purpose of narcotic control, the Saudi government had banned the carriage of kola nuts into the Kingdom.
“I appeal to all pilgrims especially those with the habit of chewing kola nuts to chew as much as they want before leaving Nigeria.
“You should chew enough that will last you for the period of your stay in the kingdom so that you don’t have to carry any from Nigeria.
“The Saudi authorities have made hajj almost 100 per cent IT-based as they have simplified the process and eased a lot of hardship hitherto experienced.
“Visa is now electronically generated and printed at the respective pilgrims’ welfare boards across the country.” This has eliminated the hardship of taking passports to the Saudi Embassy and logistics required for that.
“I appeal to our pilgrims to comply with all the rules and regulations put up by the Saudi government in so many areas especially things that have to do with crowd control and security, to make sure that all pilgrims that go for hajj from all over the world perform their hajj with ease.
“Part of our responsibility is to make sure that pilgrims get value for their money and we have developed various mechanisms to ensure that our pilgrims get the best.
“I also urge the 2019 pilgrims that we should be good ambassadors of our country and avoid carrying anything that is prohibited by the Saudi government.”