A total of 29,128 pilgrims have so far been airlifted into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for this year’s holy pilgrimage, the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria, NAHCON has said.
The Commission, in a statement issued by its Director of Public Affairs, Fatima Sanda Usara on Tuesday in Abuja said this was achieved after 73 flights, adding that 920 officials have been transported within the airlift period.
It also disclosed that most pilgrims have been moved to Makkah in preparation for Arafat which will take place on Friday, July 8.
“From the Private Tour Operators, 8,620 visas have been processed. About seven thousand of the intending pilgrims are currently in Saudi Arabia.
“In addition, NAHCON and leadership of the Association of Hajj and Umrah Operators in Nigeria (AHOUN) assure that all LTO pilgrims will be flown out of Nigeria before midnight.
“The rescue operation will be conducted in Abuja, Lagos, and Kano. FlyNas will provide three aircraft while Kam Air, another Saudi Airline, has been contacted on standby in case there is a need to deploy another aircraft,” the statement stressed.
The NAHCON management and the AHOUN leadership have therefore urged the affected pilgrims to assemble at the agreed location for screening and consequent conveyance to Saudi Arabia for the pilgrimage.
Usara assured that “NAHCON will not leave any pilgrim behind God willing”, adding that the chairman of the commission, Zhikrullah Hassan “will remain behind to ensure that no one is disenfranchised.”
The General Authority for Civil Aviation, GACA, had on Monday approved an extension of landing permits for Nigerian Hajj carriers under the umbrella of NAHCON following the appeal by the commission to enable it to transport the remaining pilgrims into the Kingdom for the 2022 Hajj.
According to Usara, the extension will last till today, July 6 for one of the airlines whereas the 4th and 5th have been approved for another.
NAHCON said of the 43,008 pilgrims expected to arrive in Saudi Arabia from Nigeria, 27,359, inclusive of 527 staff as well as committees and board members, under the government quota have been conveyed.
Similarly, over 5,000 out of the 8,097 Tour Operators’ pilgrims with valid visas were moved through scheduled flights and other arrangements.
“The extension was necessitated by excessive flight cancellations and flight delays. Data has shown that, from the 10th to 13th of June, nine flights were cancelled due to reasons ranging from inability to secure BTA, insufficient funds for visas, unavailable PCR test results etc. In total, 13 flights were cancelled with another 57 delayed take-offs.
“Seven of which are in two digits, with the highest being 24 hours’ delay, followed by 23 hours delay, 22 hours and lowest in this category are twice 10-hour delays. Only 13 flights left on schedule out of the 65 outbound flights so far witnessed from the country”, it explained.
While assuring that all the pilgrims with valid travel documents would be airlifted, NAHCON informed that one of the carriers, FlyNas, with its four aircraft, will fly four times daily thereby moving 1,732 each day.
The commission expressed regrets about the tension and stress intending pilgrims might have experienced during this outbound journey to the holy land, promising that the management would review the operations to make sure that such inconveniences are never repeated.
[ Daily Post]