The first set of 546 intending Muslim pilgrims was yesterday airlifted from the Maiduguri International Airport in Borno State to Saudi Arabia.
Daily Trust reports that Hajj operations were not possible for the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Speaking during the inauguration of the exercise, President Muhammadu Buhari charged the pilgrims to be good ambassadors of Nigeria in the holy land and conduct themselves in an orderly manner.
He said, “Hajj being an act of worship also entails hardship which also requires patience and great sacrifice, self-restraint and discipline. I, therefore, call upon you to obey all the COVID-19 protocols as they are meant to protect you and other citizens throughout your stay in the holy land.”
Represented by Borno State Governor, Professor Babagana Zulum, the president appealed to the intending pilgrims to pray for the restoration of peace and stability in the country.
He said, “Today we are grateful to the Almighty Allah to witness the commencement of Hajj operations in Nigeria right from Maiduguri International Airport. This is an indication of the efforts that have been put in place by the federal government in ensuring return of peace and stability to Borno State.”
Earlier in his remarks, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of NAHCON, Alhaji Zikirullahi Kunle Hassan, attributed the successful takeoff of the first flight to the effort of the state governor.
He disclosed that a total of 43,000 intending pilgrims from across the country would participate this year from Nigeria.
Meanwhile, Gombe State Muslims Pilgrims Welfare Board has fixed June 20 and 21 for the airlifting of intending pilgrims from the state to Saudi Arabia.
The Executive Secretary of the board, Malam Sa’adu Hassan, disclosed this yesterday in an interview on the board’s preparation for this year’s Hajj.
He said 1,105 pilgrims would participate from the state and would be airlifted by Max Air from the Gombe Airport, Lawanti, in two batches.
He further said pilgrims from the state paid N2,450,000 as pegged by the NAHCON, noting that each pilgrim would be refunded $800 as Basic Travelling Allowance (BTA).
Hassan attributed the high cost of the Hajj fare this year to the increase in the price of airline tickets and tax increase from five to 15 per cent by the Saudi Arabian government.
He called on all the intending pilgrims to take the COVID-19 vaccine, warning that any pilgrim that failed to take it would not be allowed entry into Saudi Arabia as directed by the Saudi government.
From Haruna Gimba Yaya (Gombe) & Hassan Ibrahim (Maiduguri)