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2024 Hajj: First batch of 422 pilgrims depart for Saudi Arabia

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Nigerian hajj pilgrims

Holy pilgrimage by Muslims began on Wednesday in Birnin- Kebbi, the Kebbi State capital where the first batch of 422 pilgrims comprising of 269 males and 153 females as well as seven officials depart for Saudi Arabia.

The first flight, which conveyed pilgrims mainly from Kebbi State by FlyNas Airline, took off at 4.54 pm Nigerian time at the Sir Ahmadu Bello International Airport, SABIA, after inauguration by the Vice President, Senator Kashim Shettima.
Speaking at the event, Shettima said the President Bola Tinubu-led federal government attaches immense importance to religious pilgrimage due to the role it plays in transforming behavioral and social lives of the believers.

It is due to this high regard, he said, that “the government took time to carefully select men of integrity, endowed with administrative acumen and records of selfless dedication, to manage the affairs of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria, NAHCON in the interest of Nigerian pilgrims.”

The Vice President was further quoted by a statement issued by the Assistant Director of Public Affairs in NAHCON, Hajia Fatima Sanda Usara that the Tinubu administration supported this year’s pilgrimage with N90billion.

Shettima commended the leadership, board members and staff of NAHCON for what he described as sacrifices they endured to see to the success of Hajj, a sacrifice, he said, no monetary reward could compensate.

The Vice President urged pilgrims to display good conduct and respect constituted authorities as representatives of Nigeria, adding that they should pray for the peace and progress of the country, especially for an end to the insecurity.

In his goodwill message, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III thanked the federal government of Nigeria for bringing hope to the pilgrims when the exchange rate challenge became heightened, describing it as the outcome of renewed hope of the present administration.

He, therefore, urged the pilgrims to pray positively for government and to avoid praying negatively for their leaders, saying the effect of such prayers always boomerangs.

Also speaking, Kebbi State governor, Dr. Nasir Idris commended various Hajj managers for organizing the pilgrimage in such a manner that pilgrims will carry out their worship with concentration without distractions.

They governor recalled that last year’s airlift of Kebbi State pilgrims was carried out from Sokoto due to obstacles in embarkation point, but informed that his administration provided the necessary facilities at SABIA and the state’s Hajj camp making SABIA departure center a reality this year.

Earlier, the chairman of NAHCON, Malam Jalal Arabi, described the occasion as memorable in the short life of the Fifth Board “because the management was about to put to test the many strategies conceived for the safe delivery of a well-organized Hajj season.”

“We stand to be assessed for the promises we have made to spearhead an outing that would be recorded as one of the best in recent times,” he said.

Arabi highlighted some of the achievements of the present board as securing accommodation for pilgrims in Mina closer to the Jamarat, successful conclusion of visa issuance to every eligible pilgrim before commencement of the year’s airlift, etc.

The chairman informed that NAHCON recorded a reduction in Hajj fare when calculated in Dollars and also took some measures to cushion the effect of high Dollar rate including the reduction in number of days in Madina from eight days to four days, in addition to discounted amount in the total cost of accommodation as well as reducing the Basic Traveling Allowance, BTA from 800 to 500 Dollars.

Like the other speakers, Arabi advised the pilgrims to be obedient, patient, to pray for Nigeria and her leaders and to pray for guidance of our youth as future leaders of our country.

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