BY TAOFEEK LAWAL, Abuja
The federal government, yesterday, flaggd off the 2017 Hajj with the airlift of 460 pilgrims in the inaugural flight.
Speaking when he bidded the pilgrims farewell, Acting President Yemi Osinbajo urged them to be of good conduct while in the Holy Land saying they must be good ambassadors of Nigeria.
Osinbajo who was represented by the Minister of the FCT, Mallam Muhammad Musa Bello lauded the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) for the efforts put in place to transport the pilgrims saying the efforts put in place by all the stakeholders has culminated in the success recorded so far.
“I want to commend the efforts of all the stakeholders for what we are witnessing here today. NAHCON, the aviation ministry and all the agencies under the ministry and all relevant stakeholders have put in their best. I want to appreciate NAHCON for able to get back the 20 per cent quota taken from Nigeria by Saudi authorities. The airlift of the pilgrims is the beginning of hajj process and I want to appeal to the pilgrims fear Allah and be good ambassadors of Nigeria in Saudi Arabia. I also want to call on the hajj officials to relate well with the pilgrims,” Osinbajo said.
In his welcome address at the event, the chairman/CEO NAHCON, Barrister Abdullahi Mukhtar Muhammad said about 79,000 pilgrims from Nigeria are expected to perform this year’s holy pilgrimage. He said 60,000 of the pilgrims are going through the state pilgrims’ board while 19,000 are through private tour operators.
He said some officials of the commission have already taken positions in Saudi Arabia to attend to the need of the pilgrims during arrival. He however called on the pilgrims to adhere strictly to the laid down rules and regulations of the host country. The NAHCON boss said over 20,000 visas have been issued by the Saudi Arabia embassy so far adding that more visas are going to be issued in the next few days.
The Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar represented by Emir of Bauchi, His Royal Highness, Alhaji Ridwan Suleiman Adamu, tasked the pilgrims to see the journey as a spiritual one not meant for holiday or tourism and called on the pilgrims to pray for the country and its leaders.