1,300 Kano intending pilgrims still stranded

The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria on Tuesday assured all stakeholders that none of the intending pilgrims for the 2022 Hajj from Nigeria would be left stranded.

This is just as it said it has so far transported 29,128 pilgrims and 920 officials in 73 flights into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The News Agency of Nigeria quoted the Assistant Director, Public Affairs of NAHCON, Mrs Fatima Usara, as disclosing this in a statement on Tuesday in Abuja.

Usara spoke at a time indication emerged that about 1,300 Kano State intending pilgrims may not perform this year’s Hajj following the inability of the Azman Airline to airlift them.

However, Usara said most of the pilgrims had been moved to Makkah in preparation for Arafat slated to take place on July 10.

She said, “From the private tour operators, 8,620 visas have been processed and about 7,000 of the intending pilgrims are currently in Saudi Arabia.

“In addition, NAHCON and leadership of Association of Hajj and Umrah Operators in Nigeria assure that all licensed tour operators pilgrims will be flown out of Nigeria before 12 midnight on Tuesday.

“The rescue operation will be conducted in Abuja, Lagos and Kano states. FlyNas will provide three aircraft, while Kam Air, another Saudi Airline, has been contacted on standby in case there is need to deploy another aircraft.”

She said the management of NAHCON and AHOUN leadership urged affected pilgrims to assemble at the agreed location for screening and consequent conveyance to Saudi Arabia for the pilgrimage. NAN reports that no fewer than 43,000 Nigerian pilgrims registered through the 36 states and Federal Capital Territory and licensed tour operators are expected to partake in this year’s hajj in Saudi Arabia.

Investigation by The PUNCH, however, revealed that only 1,386 out of the 2,686 intending pilgrims from Kano State had so far been transported to the Holy land for the holy pilgrimage.

According to the investigation, out of the 1,300 stranded intending pilgrims, 86 had yet to get visa as of time of filing this story.

However, speaking to journalists on Tuesday on the situation, the Executive Secretary of Kano State Pilgrims Welfare Board, Alhaji Abba Dambatta, said so far, Azman Air had airlifted 1,386 pilgrims while the remaining 1,300 were still on ground.

He, however, assured all that no pilgrim would be left behind.

He said the board encountered many obstacles as it initially settled for Max Air to airlift all the pilgrims from Kano only to be overruled by NAHCON, saying “we are to work with Azman Air, which we rejected at the initial stage.”

Dambatta, however, revealed that since the resolution of the board with Azman Air to continue with the Hajj exercise, it has so far carried out five trips to the Holy land.

“The first aircraft transported 399 pilgrims, the second batch was 97, the third batch was 95, while the fourth batch had 395 and the final batch had 100 pilgrims on board,” he said.

When contacted, the General Manager of Azman Air, Alhaji Suleiman Lawan, said they are on top of the situation.

He said they have since communicated to NAHCON on their inability to airlift all the Kano pilgrims to the Holy land and promised to provide two more big aircraft to help evacuate the stranded pilgrims.

Meanwhile, not less than 150 intending pilgrims from Oyo State will not be performing the 2022 Hajj due to visa denial by the Saudi authority.

The Chairman, Oyo State Pilgrim Welfare Board (Muslim Wing), Prof Sayed Malik, disclosed this while addressing journalists on Monday in Ibadan.

According to him, the denial of visa to the affected intending pilgrims by the Saudi authority at the 11th hour was based on the recommendation of NAHCON.

He explained that 629 out of 43,000 slots given to Nigeria was allocated to Oyo State to perform the 2022 Hajj despite the fact that over 1,000 Muslims had already registered to perform the hajj.

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