Olawale Ajimotokan in Mecca, Saudi Arabia
Pilgrims from Anambra, Cross River, Ebonyi and Abia States have been airlifted to Jeddah to participate in the Hajj exercise in Saudi Arabia.
They were among the 301 intending pilgrims and officials from FCT, Sokoto, Zamfara, Kaduna, Delta and Enugu States that departed Abuja on Tuesday morning aboard a Flynas XY5821 flight.
Giving the breakdown of the passengers, the Command and Control Centre of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) said there were 25 intending pilgrims from Anambra State, 42 from Cross River State, 74 from Ebonyi State and eight from Abia State.
There were also 17 from the FCT, while Sokoto State had 11, Zamfara State 22, Kaduna State 55 and Delta State 28. Enugu State had 19 intending pilgrims and 86 officials.
Their arrival has increased the number of Nigerians in Saudi Arabia for the annual Islamic spiritual rites to 44,450.
NAHCON also confirmed it had supervised 93 flights in total for the Hajj, in addition to completing the first phase of the airlift operation of the Nigerian pilgrims to Saudi Arabia.
In the same regard, NAHCON representative, Dr. Aliu Tanko, and Saudi officials have brainstormed on the modality for the transportation of pilgrims throughout the major activities of Hajj rites which begin on Friday through Tuesday next week.
About two million pilgrims from around the world presently in Saudi Arabia will supplicate on the plains of Mount Arafat on Saturday for the climax of the religious rites.
The fact that the largest number of pilgrims from sub-Saharan Africa are from Nigeria has also warranted the Saudi authority to dedicate a whole road to Nigeria at Musdalifah, the transit point the pilgrims are expected to board buses back to Mina after leaving Arafat after sunset on August 10.
THISDAY Checks, however, revealed that as part of measures to stem transportation hitches, the Saudi authorities will limit the number of buses to be deployed on the road at the same time by the Nigerian contingents.
For instance, it was gathered that FCT, which was allotted 40 buses to convey its pilgrims to Mina last year will only be assigned seven buses for the same exercise this year.
All the Nigerian pilgrims’ welfare boards will move their pilgrims in batches to forestall rowdiness along the road.
Quoting Abubakar Banamaa, the Vice-President, Transport Management Team; Jamiu Dosunmu of the Lagos State Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Board, said the meeting was to strategise ahead of the journey and identify possible difficulties that should be addressed.
He noted that the logistics was for the movement of pilgrims from Mecca to Mina, Mina to Arafat, Arafat to Musdalifah and from Musdalifah to Mina Camp.
Banamaa also appealed to the state officials to commence transportation of their pilgrims very early to their various places in accordance with the designated date to avoid rowdiness and stampede