Tuesday, March 9, 2010


LEADERSHIP Newspapers Group Ltd. was at the weekend honoured as one of the pillars behind the propagation of the northern film industry.
This was announced by the Chairman/CEO of Stars In Movie Awards (SIMA), Miss Lavonne Cele-Tawo.
She commended the incisive reports and support the paper gives to the movie industry in the North and its contributions to the Hausa film genre.
Cele-Tawo, who is also the publisher of BEST MOMENTS magazine, said that at a time when the Northern movie industry, Kannywood, lacked patriots, who would foster its mandate, LEADERSHIP newspapers displayed remarkable forsight by appreciating the efforts of the stakeholders in the infantile film industry which is now gradually coming of age.
She said Al-Amin Ciroma, the recipient of the award, was chosen for his good work, determination and passion for the entertainment industry.
Responding, Ciroma, thanked the organisers for honouring him and dedicated the award to his colleagues in the entertainment beats and charged them to keep up their good works.
Also honoured were the wife of the former Vice President, Mrs. Titi Atiku Abubakar, Dr. Karima Ahmed Sani, wife of the former Zamfara State governor, and Malam Dahiru Mohammed, Chairman, Gamzaki Channel and 3SP International Limited.
Others are popular actors Ibrahim Maishunku, Baballe Hayatu, Zainab Idris and Sa'adiyya Mohammed (Gyale), who were honoured as friends of Nollywood for their contribution to the Hausa film industry, alongside prominent Nollywood actors.

Hajj: 64,000 Pilgrims Evacuated

(Published Dec 21st, 2009 in LEADERSHIP)

Barely six days to the deadline of the airlift in Saudi Arabia, less than 70,000 pilgrims were airlifted back home. It will be recalled that last week, some Zamfara State and the FCT pilgrims went on a peaceful demonstration on the manner they were evacuated at the King AbdulAziz International Airport, Jeddah; a situation that necessitated the Nigerian Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), the head of the pilgrims affairs in the states and the air carriers to hold a closed door meeting in order to avert the situation and map out possible ways of speedy exercise.
In a statement, NAHCON spokesman, Uba Mana said the commission has already mapped out strategies to finally evacuate all pilgrims before the deadline of 26 December. According to him, if not for the fuel shortage and the sudden breakdown of one of the Kabo aircrafts, the exercise would have been on the final round by now. He assured that all things are now in proper place to beat the deadline.
Similarly, the death toll of Nigerian pilgrims in he Kingdom of Saudi Arabia so far hit 45 and the birth toll risen to 14. Responding on the mortality update, the head of the medical team of Hajj 2009, Dr. Ibrahim A. Kana, said most of the deaths are as a result of hypertension. He called on pilgrims to always frequent the available clinics for proper consultation and medication, saying that pilgrims who are hypertensive should take things easy and be more prayerful, "I want to call on those who are hypertensive to please take things easy, sometimes they allow personal pressures disturb them. But in the holy land, they should engage in prayers in Haram and for the mean time take things easy." Said Kana.
Commenting on the birth rates, the head of the medical team said so far the toll reached 14 with Kano state as the highest followed by Zamfara and other states. On how they maneuvered their ways to pilgrimage, Dr. Kana said some of them were not at the initial screening centres, probably because of their high connection, "Some of them you won't see them at the screening centres, you just see them at the tarmac boarding, so what can you do? We know pregnancy is not a contradiction to Hajj, but then considering the nature of the exercise, it is a tough business with a lot of stress, at times, one can trek from Mina to Arafat or Muzdalifa to Mina and vice versa. How can a pregnant woman survive the huddles. You know stress can easily induce pregnancy, which is God's giving." He said.

Leadership gathered that a Zamfara pilgrim was said to have been blocked with her newly born baby while boarding an airline. Reports shows that the woman gave birth at the pilgrim hotel room in Mecca, which the Saudi authorities demand the proper birth papers. "It is a sad story, the woman delivered at the pilgrims hotel room, which is against the Saudi policy, they have demanded for the proper birth certificate." Said Dr. Kana. As at the time of filing this report, the woman and her husband have returned back to Mecca from Jeddah to acquire the papers that will allow them pass the immigration protocols at the Jeddah Airport.

30 Nigerian Pilgrims Die In Saudi Arabia

(Published DEC 7)

Thirty Nigerian pilgrims have so far lost their lives in Saudi Arabia during the 2009 Hajj, spokesman of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), Alhaji Uba Mana, has said.
Mana, who is the head of media and publicity of the commission, told our reporter in an interview in Mecca on Monday that Kebbi, Niger, Sokoto, Kano, Zamfara, Plateau, Nasawa, Bauchi, Lagos, Yobe, and Borno each lost pilgrims during the Hajj.
Giving a breakdown, Mana said that Kebbi State lost five pilgrims, Niger and Sokoto lost four each, Kano and Plateau states lost three pilgrims each, Nasarawa, Bauchi and Zamfara states lost two each, while Lagos, Yobe and Borno states lost one pilgrim each.
He explained that the three pilgrims that died from Kano State came through international route and not through the state’s pilgrims welfare board.
Mana said that of the 30 that lost their lives, three were knocked down by moving vehicles, two as a result of kidney failure, while the rest died of hypertension and heart related ailments.
On the transportation of pilgrims back home from Saudi Arabia, the NAHCON spokesman said that 15,000 pilgrims have so far returned home and reiterated that all Nigerian pilgrims would be back at home by December 26.

Amirul Hajj Escapes Lynch In Mecca

(Published DEC 2, 2009)

Leader of Nigeria’s Muslim pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia (Amirul Hajj), Senator Kanti Bello, yesterday escaped being lynched by angry pilgrims while inspecting luggage weighing centres in Mecca.
Senator Bello had arrived one of the centres, where the luggage of Adamawa, Kano and Katsina states were weighed, and cautioned one of the operatives of Kabo Air to adhere to stipulated 40kg. He also condemned speculations that some of the air carriers were telling pilgrims that even if their luggage exceeded the limit, they would be conveyed, saying that any carrier that agreed to convey excess luggage was doing so at its own risk.
According to Bello, if any pilgrim did not arrive home with his load, the affected air carrier would be held responsible. But before completing his speech, some angry pilgrims jumped onto the stage and began to hurl abusive words and throw stones at him.
The Amirul Hajj and his entourage managed to leave the place but his car’s windscreens were smashed.
Meanwhile, LEADERSHIP reporter awaited the outcome of a closed-door meeting of the Amirul Hajj and his committee. At the time of filing in this report, none of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) officials had offered any explanation.
A source, however, confided in leadership that some of the air carriers, most especially Kabo Air, may be sanctioned.
Meanwhile, the dispute between the Amirul Hajj and most of the state pilgrims welfare boards may cause a serious delay in the airlift of the pilgrims back home, which was earlier scheduled to start yesterday.
Investigations in Jeddah and Kano revealed that already many of the pilgrims disputed the directive given by the Amirul Hajj on luggage size.
This strict directive, according to the pilgrims, will not augur well for them, as it was the tradition that the airlines handling the Hajj exercise normally carried all the luggage belonging to pilgrims, while any excess would be paid for.
A reliable source explained that despite the fact that yesterday was scheduled for the start of assembling of the pilgrims, most of them did not show up at the Jeddah airport, raising concerns that the airlift could be delayed.
The source alleged that apart from the state pilgrims welfare boards, most of the airlines operating the Hajj exercise are bitterly opposed to the new directive on lugagge size because such plan will seriously congest the Jeddah airport and paralyse the airlift.
Meanwhile, Meridian Airlines had planned to start the airlift of the pilgrims by 11 a.m. yesterday and was expected to bring home 516 Jigawa State pilgrims.
The Public Relations Manager of the airline, Alhaji Ibrahim Ahmed Karaye, told LEADERSHIP in a telephone interview that after finishing with Jigawa State, the airline would airlift pilgrims from other states allocated to it - Kano, Kaduna and Plateau.
Another airline operating in this year's Hajj exercise, Max Air Limited, had already positioned its aircraft in Jeddah on Sunday night as required by the NAHCON to commence the airlift of pilgrims back to Nigeria.

Hajj: 11 Nigerians Die In Saudi Arabia

(Published NOV - 19th)

The Head of the Federal Government medical team to the 2009 Hajj, Dr Ibrahim Kana, has confirmed that 11 Nigerian pilgrims have died in Saudi Arabia.
Kana told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Mecca yesterday that two of the deceased were knocked down by vehicles in Mecca and Medina, while two died of diarrhea and vomiting, one of epilepsy, another of pneumonia and the rest of natural causes.
He said Nasarawa, Sokoto, Kebbi and Bauchi states lost two pilgrims each, while Zamfara, Plateau and Niger states lost one each.
He said the record was an improvement compared to 2008 when 45 Nigerians died before Arafat.
Kana called on the pilgrims to improve on their personal hygiene, rest properly and take plenty of water and fruits to avoid exhaustion from the heat.
He said the federal medical team was working with the state medical teams to ensure the good health of pilgrims.
Speaking to LEADERSHIP at the Nigerian Medical Mission House in Mecca, Kana said Nigeria has recorded tremendous success from the airlift to logistics. "We have about five clinics this year - four in Mecca and one in Madina that gave us the privilege to attend to large number of our patients.
"We tried hard to prevent diseases, you know, once there is prevention, you are able to reduce the number of patients and mortality. We got this breakthrough by creating much awareness. Pamphlets were produced in virtually all major Nigerian languages to address health-related matters and personal hygiene.”
He added: "Generally speaking, health is good this year, compared to last year when we had about 42 mortality rates.
“Most of those who died last year were old persons, but this year due to the strict nature of visa issuance by the Saudi government and our vigorous screenings of the aged and healthy people, we have less problems. Almost all those who are on this year's contingent are healthy people. If this continues, Nigeria will record a lot of successes on Hajj affairs."
On swine flu, the doctor said, "Right from Nigeria, we screened our pilgrims, took their temperature and so on, but about eight of the Nigerian pilgrims were quarantined by the Saudi authorities here in Jeddah, alleging that they have H1N1 (swine flu) and were taken to the hospital for examination.
"At the hospital, Polymirase chain test, which is an intelligence test, was conducted on them. I am proud to say that the result showed that none of them and found positive of H1N1. We have over 20,000 tamiflu to cure the swine flu for our pilgrims."
Kana also stated that this year the Saudi authorities arranged that there would be no clinics and ambulances in Mina. "The Saudi authorities will provide everything, clinics, hospitals and ambulances. The ambulances will serve as post-clinics just to avoid commotion.
"If all states of Nigeria will go with their ambulances and every nation will take its ambulances there, how many will be on board? But they are capable of providing everything in case of any emergency."
The federal medical team has 60 doctors, 120 nurses, 20 pharmacists and 16 environmental health officers, who offer free medical services to pilgrims in their clinics in Mecca, Medina and Jeddah.
Ninety-five thousand Nigerians are performing the pilgrimage.

The Pilgrims That Died In Saudi Arabia

1. Usman Hassan Dandaura - Kebbi; died 28-10-09 in Madina of Septicaemia.
2. Gidigo Maikurata - Nasarawa; died 1/11/09 in Madina of cardiopulmonary failure.
3. Ibrahim Abdulkarim Imam - Sokoto; died 2/11/09 in Madina of cardiopulmonary failure.
4. Hauwa Mohammed Abdullahi - Nasarawa; died 4/11/09 in Madina of Hepatic Encephalopathy.
5. Balarabe Adamu - Sokoto; died 4/11/09 in Madina of gastroenteritis.
6. Dadda'u Almalik - Zamfara; died 5/11/09 in Madina, having been knocked down by a vehicle on the road.
7. Ibrahim Umar - Bauchi; died 10/11/09 in Madina of Aspiration pneumonia secondary to epileptic;
8. Babawo M. Sarki - Plateua; died 10/11/09 in Makka, knocked down by a car.
9. Maryam Alhassan Jumu - Kebbi; died 13/11/09 in Madina of cardiac arrest.
10. Musa Lawan - Bauchi; died on 14/11/09 in Makkah of anaemic cardiac failure.
11. Hauwa Ndanusa - Niger; died 15/11/09 in Makkah of gastroenteritis.

Hajj: Nigeria Airlifts 76,443 Ahead Of Deadline

(ublished NOV - 17 2009)

By Al-Amin Ciroma, Mecca and Mansur Sani Malam, Kano
A total of 76,443 pilgrims have so far been airlifted to Saudi Arabia to perform this year’s Muslim pilgrimage.
LEADERSHIP learnt exclusively from the information office of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) in Jeddah yesterday that the figure is a tremendous lift from the past.
The Head of Human Resources at the NAHCON office in Jeddah, Dr. Aliyu Abubakar Tanko, said, “All the airlines are living up to expectation this year. We will be far away from deadline because information released to us by the body in charge of the pilgrim affairs of Saudi Arabia to the African Non-Arabs pilgrims indicates that the Madina road will be closed on November 13, 2009 while closing of Jeddah airport will be on November 21, 2009. Therefore, going by this development, Nigeria has recorded incredible exercise.”
On the mortality rate, Tanko said it is very difficult to assess the rate of mortality because the Hajj business is yet to kick off properly.
“The only mortality we witnessed so far was that in Madinah, where six people died. But honestly, we cannot finally say anything on it for now. However, we hope when the Hajj progresses, our pilgrims will survive the hurdles and go back to their families and loved ones in peace.”
A survey conducted by our reporter indicates that as NAHCON is trying to overcome all previous problems faced by the Nigerian contingent in the holy land, some pilgrims are still stranded at their local stations in Mecca.
Some pilgrims who expressed dismay complained that their accommodation is in bad environment and lacks social amenities.
“Can you imagine, we were lodged about nine of us in a single room without any ventilation. Among us, there are two aged men, who cannot stand the cold of the air conditioner in the room. There is no window, so even if we switch off the air conditioner, there likely be air contamination in the room,” cried a pilgrim from Kano State.
Some pilgrims also complained about how some unscrupolous officials, capitalising on the anxious moment of Hajj, to perpetrate their self-serving agenda in order to make fast bucks at the expense of the country and the unsuspecting pilgrims.
“Of course, we can do better than most of the countries partaking in the exercise and one of the ways to achieve that is to borrow a leaf from the experience of the Indonesians. The Nigerian Hajj Commission has a lot to overcome.”
Meanwhile, Max Air Limited is expected to complete the airlift of the 30,400 pilgrims allocated to it by the Federal Government for this year's Hajj exercise today
The spokesman of the airline, Malam Ibrahim Dahiru, told newsmen in Kano that the airline has also commenced rescue mission in the airlift of pilgrims in some African countries.
He revealed that Max Air will from today airlift the last batch of 500 pilgrims from Borno and Yobe, adding this is bringing the total number of pilgrims flown to Jeddah by Max Air to 30,400.
Dahiru said the airline is using its spare aircraft in airlifting pilgrims from Cameroon, Banjul in The Gambia, Dakar in Senegaland Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso.
He explained that the airline is expected to complete the rescue mission in 10 flights by tomorrow.
He said Max Air has airlifted pilgrims successfully from FCT, Nasarawa, Katsina, Sokoto, Gombe and Yobe.
Dahiru expressed satisfaction with the co-operation by the state Pilgrims Welfare Boards and the pilgrims, and wished them successful pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia.

Hajj: Nigeria Beats Deadline In 20 Years

(Published on 13th November, 2009 in LEADERSHIP)

For the first time in decades, Nigeria will be beating the deadline in the airlift of Muslim pilgrims to Saudi Arabia, without rancorous beginning and end.
Already, over 80,000 pilgrims, representing about 92 percent out of a total of 85,000 participants, have been airlifted from various take- off points across the country.
As at last night, a total of 83,718 pilgrims were successfully airlifted to the holy land.
The official closing date for airlifts is eight days away on November 21.
This also means that the country is left with less than 2,000 pilgrims, and that can be concluded between today and tomorrow.
With this development, by Sunday all the intending pilgrims would have been airlifted to the holy land.
LEADERSHIP investigation indicated that this positive result is due to diligent and early preparations embarked upon by the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON).
It is equally in line with the resolve by the leadership of the commission headed by Muhammad Musa Bello to professionalise Hajj operations in the country.
This is a significant improvement on the part of Nigeria's Hajj operations and a boost in the Nigeria-Saudi diplomatic relations.
Until now, nearly every year Saudi authorities had to be begged by their Nigerian counterparts to extend their deadline for Nigeria's pilgrims due to the latter's poor logistics and usual planlessness, especially the lack of respect to timed programmes.
The airlift, which started on October 25, is being coordinated from Lagos, Kano, Gombe, Sokoto and Maiduguri airports.
Already, ahead of the arrival of the national Hajj team representing Nigerian higher authorities to be led by the National Amirul Hajj, Senator Kanti Bello, an advanced team representing the main body, led by Alhaji Liad Tella, are in Saudi Arabia to fine-tune necessary arrangements.
Senator Bello had at various fora during interactive sessions with licensed airliners urged for efficient service delivery.
The airlines handling the Hajj operations are Kabo, Meridian, Medview and Max Air.
The airlift started about three weeks ago, with Lagos sending off the first batch of 295 pilgrims. Oyo sent 540, Zamfara, which uses Sokoto Airport, airlifted 540 initially.
Max Air was the first carrier to finish the airlift of the 30,400 pilgrims allocated to it. The airline attained this feat on Monday.
Kabo Air Limited completed the airlift of 31,324 pilgrims yesterday, which was the total number allocated to the airline this year. This shows that the airline was able to conclude the exercise in less than three weeks since the first batch left Sokoto on October 24.
The pilgrims were from Bauchi, Benue, Kaduna, Kano, Kebbi, Kogi, Niger, Taraba and Zamfara states.
The manager, Corporate Affairs, of the airline, Alhaji Aminu Hamza, explained that the last set of pilgrims left Malam Aminu Kano International Airport on Tuesday, a week to the November 17 deadline given by the NAHCON to all carriers to complete the airlift.
The Managing Director and Chief Executive of Kabo Air Limited, Captain Sa'idu Mohammed, attributed the success to experience and dedication on the part of the management and staff of the company spanning about 30 years.
He called for the continued cooperation of all stakeholders and assured of the airline's readiness to make the return leg a successful one.
Meanwhile, some Nigerian pilgrims are as usual visiting Saudi Arabia through privately arranged international routes, such as Lagos-London-Jeddah, Kano-Cairo-Jeddah or Kano-Holland-London-Jeddah.
These arrangements are made through licensed international travel and tour agencies.
Our correspondent in Saudi Arabia spoke to Dr. Abubakar I. Kana, the head of the medical team, who said: “The Saudi government has not rejected Nigeria's immunisation exercise and yellow cards,” which are part of requirements to enter the Kingdom.
Our correspondent disclosed that the Saudi government has been administering polio vaccines and antibiotics to all Nigerian pilgrims as an administrative measure.
The remaining pilgrims from Kebbi and Zamfara states will be airlifted tomorrow by Kabo Airline at the Sultan Abubakar III International Airport.
This was made known to our correspondent by the coordinator of Kabo airline, Mr Steven Ishaya, in Sokoto.
The remaining pilgrims, comprising officials of the two states, who are about 100 in number, would be airlifted in a small aircraft carrying 189 passengers.
Over 18,000 Sokoto pilgrims, were airlifted from Sultan Abubakar III airport.
LEADERSHIP also gathered that cases of lost pilgrims, which used to be rampant in the past, are minimal.
The success in this area has been attributed to awareness campaigns instituted by the NAHCON, as well as efforts of various pilgrims welfare boards in the states.