(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.