As the first batch of Nigerian pilgrims to this year’s Hajj departed the shores of the country to Saudi Arabia, they have been urged to pray for peace and progress of the country while in the Holy Land.
This is even as they were told to not only be law-abiding to the regulations of Saudi Arabia but also uphold the tenets of Islam, and be courteous to their fellow pilgrims as Nigerian ambassadors.
These were contained in the speech delivered by the Chairman/Chief Executive Officer (CEO), National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), Alhaji Zikrullah Kunle Hassan, at the inaugural flight for this year’s Hajj at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja.
“I enjoin our pilgrims, here present and others that will follow, to pray for the peace and progress of our beloved country, Nigeria.
“All Nigerian pilgrims travelling for Hajj 2023 are ambassadors of Nigeria in the Kingdom, hence, they should be law-abiding to the regulations of the Kingdom, uphold the tenets of Islam, be courteous to their fellow pilgrims and above all, they should be well acquainted with the obligations of Hajj which is the main purpose of their journey,” Hassan said.
While saying that the inaugural flight marked a memorable day as all the plans put in place for the smooth takeoff of the 2023 Hajj has not gone in vain, Hassan said NAHCON was confronted with many challenges ahead of this year’s operations.
He added that in spite of these, the commission was able to manage them with the support of sister agencies and other stakeholders in the Hajj industries.
He expressed gratitude to the Federal Government for waiving numerous aviation charges as well as to the airlines for their sacrifices, the states’ pilgrims welfare boards and the pilgrims who all cooperated to arrive at an amicable solution to the seeming bottleneck.
According to the NAHCON boss, “despite the unprecedented challenge caused by the closure of the Sudan airspace hence forcing a re-route from Nigeria to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, we give gratitude to the Almighty for leading us to a smooth resolution of the quagmire.
“We appreciate Federal Government for waiving numerous aviation charges, the airlines for their sacrifices, the States’ Pilgrims Welfare Boards and our Pilgrims who all cooperated to arrive at an amicable solution to the seeming bottleneck.”
Hassan declared that it was now time for the execution of the plans put in place, assuring that this year’s Hajj would not be about stories but success stories.
He said the commission had concluded arrangements to ensure beat accommodation, feeding and transportation of the pilgrims in the Holy Land.
“We have made and concluded arrangements to ensure that the accommodation, feeding and transportation facilities on the ground are the best.
“We were able to negotiate a reasonable price for hotel accommodation in Makkah knowing fully well that numerous hotels have been demolished for futuristic development.
“Also, we have been able to maintain the standard in Madinah whereby our pilgrims are lodged in 5-star hotels within the prestigious Markaziyya vicinity surrounding the Prophet’s Mosque.”
The chairman informed that with its arrangements with Mutawwif’s Company for Pilgrims of Non-Arab African Countries popularly known as Muassasa, NAHCON created job opportunities for Nigerian caterers during this year’s Hajj.
In his words, “the Commission, in collaboration with the Mutawwif’s Company for Pilgrims of Non-Arab African Countries, popularly known as Muassasa, has put in place mechanisms for the comfort and safety of our pilgrims. We have agreed that this year, our pilgrims would be served indigenous meals.
“To this end, the Commission created job opportunities for our Nigerian caterers by insisting that Saudi-based caterers work in partnership with them in preparing Nigerian local cuisines for our pilgrims.
“Hiring indigenous airlines for the airlift operations is the Commission’s way of promoting local airlines to remain in business.”
He, however, urged the state pilgrims welfare boards to prepare their pilgrims ahead of their flight schedules, warning that lapses in flight operations have a multiplier effect on other aspects of operations.
He added that the boards to enlighten their pilgrims on the Sudan crisis, saying, “we are all aware of the crisis in Sudan, we plead with our pilgrims as they will have to traverse through a route longer than usual. In the light of the above, the states are urged to properly enlighten their pilgrims.”
Over 500 pilgrims from Nasarawa State with about 60 officials departed Abuja for Saudi Arabia.
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