- NAHCON moves over 16,000 pilgrims to Mecca
From Olawale Ajimotokan in Madinah, Saudi Arabia
Nigeria is in a race to airlift the remaining 20,000 hajj pilgrims still stranded across the states to Madinah, Saudi Arabia by August 6.
That date is the deadline by the Saudi authorities for all pilgrims to evacuate the city and arrive Mecca.
It is expected that after that date, the Prince Mohammed Abdulaziz International Airport will no longer be receiving pilgrims.
Medinah hosts some of Islamic holy sites. Majority of the pilgrims usually converge there in deference to Prophet Muhammad, before they head to Mecca for the hajj rites that will climax with the Muslim Eid Al-Adha festival on August 11.
The expected arrival of the FCT contingents aboard two batches of flights on Tuesday will increase the number of Nigerian pilgrims that have arrived in Medinah to 26,000.
However, delay in the arrival has presented the prospect that the flights of the projected 20,000 intending pilgrims still in Nigeria will be diverted to Jeddah, forcing them to defer the pre-hajj rituals until the end of the Eid festival.
The approved pilgrim quota for Nigeria for this year is 95,000. Of that number, 65,000 is allotted to the 36 states and the FCT, while the tour operators are given 25,000 slots.
The Madinah Coordinator of National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), Ahmed Maigari, identified visa as the major challenge that is hampering the efforts to fly all the pilgrims into Madinah before August 6.
Maigari, who is also the secretary of NAHCON however, told correspondents on Monday that the commission was banking on the states to fill 45,000 slots out of the quota.
“We can’t say neither yes nor no. It depends on the visa. You can’t get a precise figure now until the last day which is August 6, when pilgrims are no more expected to be in Madinah. It will be difficult to reach Saudi Arabia without a visa. I also understand that in Nigeria, they have closed the visa processing portal” Maigari said.
Meanwhile NAHCON has announced that it has dispatched 16,593 pilgrims from Madinah to Mecca.
Maigari said the transfer process had been ongoing on daily basis.
On Sunday, 560 pilgrims from Gombe were dispatched, while 502 were from Kano, 544 from Ogun and 431 were from Oyo. Also on Monday, 557 pilgrims from Katsina and 430 from Sokoto respectively left for the holy land.