WITH the arrival Sunday morning, in the holy city of Madinah, of Amiru-l-Hajj (leader), Oba Rilwanu Akiolu of Lagos and members of the 2014 Hajj Federal Government Delegation, National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) has successful conveyed all intending pilgrims from Nigeria for this year’s Hajj to the Holy land. Over 75,000 Nigerians including those that employed the services of private tour operators will be participating in the spiritual exercise which will commence on Thursday, the 8th day of Dhul Hijjah, the 12th month of Muslim calendar.
Last week, Saudi authority announced 12 midnight of September 28 as deadline for the airlifting of pilgrims from all parts of the world to the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah.
Medview Air Special Flight No. VL3168 that conveyed Oba of Lagos and his entourage departed Abuja to Madinah at 10.20p.m. on Saturday with 253 passengers, all officials except one FCT pilgrim. It was 140th flight since the flag-off of the airlifting operations on September 6 in several locations across the country. The 139th trip was Kabo Air KNE7271 flight which departed Kano to Madinah at 10p.m. with 496 pilgrims comprising 202 pilgrims from Kano and 294 pilgrims from Adamawa.
So far, a total of 64,004 pilgrims have been airlifted by the NAHCON accredited flight operators such as Flynas, Kabo Air, Max Air, Medview, and Skypower Express.
And in preparation for the commencement of the rites of Hajj this Thursday in Makkah and its neighbouring towns, NAHCON will, on Wednesday, October 1, 2014 shut down the operation in the holy city of Madinah. NAHCON Coordinator in Madinah, Dr. Bello Tambuwal told journalists on Saturday that the decision to close activities in Madinah became imperative to ensure smooth movement of Nigerian pilgrims remaining in Madinah to the spots of the spiritual exercise in Makkah and its environ.
On Thursday, all pilgrims will camp in Mina, outshirt of Makkah for an onward movement to Arafah on the following day, Friday, October 3. Converging on the plain of Arafah from sunrise to sunset on 9th of Dhul Hijjah (October 3) is a fundamental rite of Hajj without which the spiritual exercise is null and void. October 4 is Eid-l-Adha (feast of sacrifice).
During the informal briefing, Tambuwal expressed determination of the Federal Government through NAHCON to ensure stress-free exercise for Nigerian pilgrims. This, he noted, was in line with high level improvement, especially in the area of infrastructure upgrade that the Saudi authority has continued to embark upon year in year out. The coordinator mentioned introduction of feeding (dinner) of pilgrims in Madinah, procurement of standard accommodation as well as good conduct among pilgrims as some of the areas where tremendous improvement has been recorded.