Following the completion of this year’s pilgrimage in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the first set of Nigerians that took part in the exercise will return to the country after a successful exercise.
Ninety-five thousand Nigerians joined over two million Muslims from across the globe to converge on Mount Arafat and other sacred places of devotion in fulfilment of the fifth pillar of Islamic injunction.
The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) concluded the outboard airlift of 71,000 conventional pilgrims onboard 170 flight operations in 27 days to the Kingdom through the official carriers – Flynas, Max Air, Azman Air, Air Peace, Aero Contractors and Arik Air.
Addressing a post-Arafat conference in Makkah, Saudi Arabia on Sunday night, chairman of the commission, Zikrullah Hassan, said the principle of first in, first out would be strictly applied in evacuating the pilgrims back to the country.
Head of Aviation Matters in the commission, Mohammed Goni Sanda, who spoke on behalf of the chairman, informed that the Saudi authorities have a policy that in the first two weeks, the carriers would not operate maximally due to volume of traffic and large number of aircraft involved in the evacuation exercise from different continents and countries of the world, with all virtually taking off from one single gateway – the King Abdulaziz International Airport, Jeddah.
Meanwhile, the NAHCON boss has expressed his discomfort about how Nigerians were treated during the exercise while demanding a refund for services not adequately rendered by the Saudi authorities. Recall that the body regretted acute shortage of tent accommodation for pilgrims, as well as insufficient food, especially during their stay in Muna and Arafah.
The commission has also confirmed death of 14 Nigerians during the core hajj period in the holy land.
Head, NAHCON National Medical Team, Dr. Usman Galadima, said seven pilgrims died before Arafat, six during the five-day Mashair (core hajj period) and an additional one person exited after the Arafat.
He added that the medical team recorded three cases of chickenpox during the core hajj period and the affected pilgrims were immediately moved out of the area as a preventive measure to avoid spread of the disease.
Galadima stressed the need for a thorough pre-hajj medical screening, with issuance of certificates of medical fitness to elderly pilgrims, particularly.