President Muhammadu Buhari, on Thursday inaugurated the first flight for the 2023 hajj operation with 560 prospective pilgrims from Nasarawa State.
The inauguration which was held at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport marked the formal commencement of the transportation of Nigerian pilgrims to Saudi Arabia.
The transportation of pilgrims to the Holy land for Hajj 2023 is expected to last for more than 30 days.
Buhari commended the members of the board of NAHCON for their efforts in ensuring successful hajj operations since its inception.
Represented by the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Amb. Zubairu Dada, Buhari said: “NAHCON as presently constituted is doing a very wonderful job.
”I really appreciate that you have been doing so much since you came on board.
“I have been able to see the purposefulness in all the arrangements that you have been making and that you have made so far.”
Buhari also appealed to the board members not to relent their efforts to make the 2023 hajj operation a huge success.
The president said: “It is not just enough but that you should maintain the momentum.
”It is very key after this ceremony, let this be the beginning of the job which is the welfare and well-being of the pilgrims.
“You have to assist them to perform an acceptable hajj.
“Most of them might not have been to school and didn’t understand the Saudi language and norms.
”Therefore, their entire lives are under you and you have to work harder to ensure that they are comfortable.”
Buhari, who enjoined the commission to take its responsibility seriously, warned that there was very little room for any excuses.
He added: “You have been given all the support that you asked for in order to ensure that you have a very smooth operation.
“I am happy to hear that all the agencies of government have given you all the cooperation that you need to enable you to succeed.”
Bhuari admonished the pilgrims to be good ambassadors of Nigeria in Saudi Arabia, saying,”each and every one of you should represent the best of what the Islam stands for.
“You should kindly remember to pray for Nigeria because the country is going through a very difficult time especially economically.
”Also continues to fervently pray for the leaders and sustainable peace and development of the country.
“I want to join other Nigerians in praying to God to make this exercise as simple as possible and accept our supplications.”
Earlier, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, Sultan of Sokoto and President-General, Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), urged the leadership of NAHCON to conduct hitch-free hajj.
Represented by the Secretary-General of the council, Prof. Is-haq Oloyede, Sultan said: “W expect nothing but the best from the leadership of NAHCON.”
Also, Gov. Abdullahi Sule of Nasarawa, thanked the commission for giving the state the opportunity to be the first to transport its prospective pilgrims to Saudi Arabia.
Represented by the Emir of Lafia, retired Justice Sidi Bage, Sule expressed optimism that the Nasarawa pilgrims would exhibit good conduct throughout their stay in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi Arabian Ambassador to Nigeria, Faisal Al-Ghamidy, urged Nigerian pilgrims to comply with the rules and laws put in place by the government of Saudi Arabia.
He said: “This will enable you to perform your hajj ritual with maximum comfort and to return safely back to your country and families, after Allah bestows His grace upon you in performing this obligatory act of worship.”
NAHCON boss, Zikrullah Hassan, said it was able to negotiate a reasonable price for hotel accommodation in Makkah knowing fully well that numerous hotels had been demolished for futuristic development.
He said: ”Also, we have been able to maintain the standard in Madinah whereby our pilgrims are lodged in 5-star hotels within the prestigious Markaziyya vicinity surrounding the Prophet’s Mosque.
”Thankfully, in spite of the unprecedented challenge caused by the closure of the Sudan airspace, forcing a re-route from Nigeria to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, we give gratitude to the Almighty 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 amicable solution to the seeming bottleneck. “