(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.