Hajj 2023: Buhari flags off inaugural first flight with 499 pilgrims
• Pilgrims to stay in five star hotel, says NAHCON Chair
President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday flagged off this year’s inaugural flight for hajj in Abuja.
The 499 pilgrims, 472 from Nasarawa State and 21 officials, were airlifted by Max Air VM3001 at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport.
The president enjoined the pilgrims to be good ambassadors of Islam and Nigeria in the Holy Land by obeying all laws of the host country.
He urged them to pray for peace, development and progress of the country.
President commended the efforts of Alhaji Zikrullah Hassan-led National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), urging the leadership of the commission to build on the successes it has recorded so far.
Represented by the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Zubairu Dada, President Buhari, also hailed NAHCON leadership for their diligence in ensuring a smooth sail during the preparation stages of the Hajj operation.
Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of NAHCON, Alhaji Zikrullah Hassan, thanked President Buhari “whose unflinching support paved the way for the realisation of this inaugural flight.”
He congratulated the pilgrims, many of whom must have been waiting for years to be airlifted to Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj.
“Indeed, today is a memorable day because all the plans that have been put on ground for the smooth take-off of the 2023 Hajj have not gone in vain… Despite the unprecedented challenge caused by the closure of the Sudan airspace hence forcing a re-route from Nigeria to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, we give gratitude to Allah for leading us to a smooth resolution of the quagmire. We appreciate the federal government for waiving numerous aviation charges, the airlines for their sacrifices, the States’ Pilgrims Welfare Boards and our Pilgrims who all cooperated to arrive at an amiable solution to the seeming bottleneck,” he said.
Alhaji Hassan announced that the pilgrims will be lodged in 5-star hotels in Madinah, adding that the hotels will be within the prestigious Markaziyya vicinity surrounding the Prophet’s Mosque.
“Similarly, the Commission, in collaboration with the Mutawwif’s Company for Pilgrims of Non-Arab African Countries popularly known as Muassasa, have put in place mechanisms for the comfort and safety of our pilgrims. We have agreed that this year, our pilgrims would be served indigenous meals. To this end, the commission created job opportunities for our Nigerian caterers by insisting that Saudi-based caterers work in partnership with them in preparing Nigerian local cuisines for our pilgrims. Hiring indigenous airlines for the airlift operations is the commission’s way of promoting local airlines to remain in business,” he said.