Laleye Dipo in Minna
Niger State Governor Abubakar Sani Bello on Monday evening led the last batch of pilgrims from the state to Mecca for the performance of this year’s holy pilgrimage.
The governor joined 527 pilgrims in the Max airline which took off from the Minna International Airport to the holy land.
It was the first time the governor would be joining the pilgrims on the religious journey since he was elected into office in 2015.
The Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Mary Noel Berje, said in a statement made available to newsmen that the reason the governor joined the pilgrims was to enable him feel what the pilgrims are feeling on the trip while in the holy land.
Berje quoted the governor as saying that he had received a lot of verbal and written reports on previous hajj exercises and “I want to see and feel things for myself so as to be in proper position to address the challenges being faced by the pilgrims”.
“Since I became governor in 2015, I have never travelled with the pilgrims. I want to know how they feel, and how they are treated. I have received reports in the past years from different Hajj committees, but I decided to this time around join them and see things for myself so that if there are areas that need improvement, we will then address before subsequent trips,” the governor was quoted as saying before the aeroplane took off.
Bello was also said to have promised that while in the Holy land, they will pray fervently for divine intervention in the increasing wave of insecurity in the country and for peaceful coexistence and economic prosperity of the state and the country in general.
The leader of the pilgrims, Alhaji Inuwa Musa Kuta, had earlier disclosed that the state Pilgrims Welfare Board (NSPWB) had increased the allowances for the Area Pilgrims Welfare Officers (APWOs) to improve their performance and therefore challenged them to justify government’s gesture by performing up to the optimum.
In his remarks, the acting Executive Secretary of the pilgrims board, Alhaji Umar Makun Lapai, said a total of 3,273 intending pilgrims, including officials, are performing the Hajj this year.
Lapai said that the state government had made adequate arrangements for the provision of decent food, medical facilities and accommodation for the pilgrims.