HAJJ UPDATE: Nigeria completes pilgrims airlift, announces date to commence return flights

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Members of the first batch of Nasarawa State pilgrims boarding Max Air flight that was third and last flight on the Nigeria's first day of pilgrims airlifting, at Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA) Abuja, on Wednesday May 15, 2024. PHOTO: Screenshot from a video from event.

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*Lists Nigerian states with no pilgrims

*Kaduna, Bayelsa have highest, lowest numbers of pilgrims

*As 50,865 airlifted by 121 flights in 27 days

*Country records 31,726 males, 19,139 females in 2024 Hajj pilgrimage

By KEMI KASUMU

Nigeria says it has successfully concluded the airlift of its pilgrims to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for 2024 Hajj.

This was made known by the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) on Monday, June 10, 2024.

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The DEFENDER reports that the announcement puts to closure the outbound flight of the Nigerian pilgrims, commenced with a Wednesday June 15 airlift flag-off held at the Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa International Airport (SATBIA) Birnin Kebbi, Kebbi State, followed by the first flight from the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja, same day involving the first batch of pilgrims from Nasarawa and Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

The final flight took off in Abuja with the remaining 211 pilgrims from Zamfara, Sokoto, Kebbi, Bauchi, Niger and the FCT airlifted tonthe Holy Land, according to NAHCON officials.

An infographics released by the Public Affairs Department of the Commission shows that a total number of 50,865 pilgrims were airlifted in the outbound operations which lasted 27 days.

During this period, a cumulative of 121 flights were recorded and shared between three major airlines including Max Air, Air Peace and Flynas.

In the just concluded outbound operations, males were 31,726 in number, while females amounted to 19,139.

A state-by-state breakdown of pilgrims indicated that Kaduna State in North West Nigeria had the largest contingent with 4,785 pilgrims. Bayelsa State in the South South Nigeria had the lowest contingent amounting to 13 pilgrims.

Meanwhile, four states did not produce a single pilgrim. They include: Abia, Akwa Ibom, Anambra and Cross River.

Muslim News reports that the figure in the infographics did not include pilgrims of private tour operators, who are also working to complete their airlifts before the closure of the Jeddah and Madinah borders on Friday in preparation for this year’s hajj rites.

Following the sighting of Dhul-Hijjah moon by the Saudi Arabian authorities on Thursday June 7, 2024 which tallied with monthly lunar moon sighting announcement in Nigeria by the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, the all-important Hajj rite, Arafat, is said to take place on Saturday June 15, 2024 equivalent to 9th of Dhul Hijjah, 1445 AH, while the Eid-el-Adha – that is the festival of the divinely sactioned animal sacrifice – will be celebrated by Muslims all over the world on Sunday June 16, equivalent to 10th of Dhul Hijjah.

Meanwhile, NAHCON Chairman/Chief Executive Officer, Mallam Jalal Arabi, has announced that the return flights for the 2024 Hajj exercise will commence on June 22.

The Chairman made the announcement at a press briefing marking the end of the outbound operations earlier today at NAHCON office in Abuja.

He said slots for the return journey have been secured by all airlines and the operations will be based on first-in-first-out policy.

In his address at the press briefing, Arabi underlined their feat of successfully completing airlift of pilgrims to Saudi Arabia 72 hours before announcement of the deadline set by the Kingdom’s authorities.

“In the same vein, the Commission also achieved 100% movement of pilgrims to Madinah pre-Arafat,” the Chairman noted.

He commended Nigeria’s President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Vice President Kashim Shettima for the support they offered in ensuring a successful hajj operation, noting the Commission will reciprocate by doing its best to provide a smooth hajj experience for the nation’s pilgrims.

Arabi also appreciated the pilgrims for their resilience and determination despite the odds, restating NAHCON’s commitment to their welfare.


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