According to a report by Daily Trust, there was a mild drama Wednesday morning at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
The drama ensued when the Chairman, National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), Alh Zikrullah Hassan, was stopped from boarding a plane to Saudi Arabia.
The Executive Secretary Niger State Pilgrims Welfare Board, Alh Umar Makun Lapai, stopped the chairman from boarding the plane.
Lapai disclosed this in a telephone interview with newsmen in Minna, the Niger state capital.
He said, “I cannot allow the Chairman National Hajj Commission of Nigeria NAHCON to leave for hajj while 50 per cent of intending pilgrims from Niger state and other states in Nigeria are still stranded.
“As a leader, the Chairman National Hajj Commission of Nigeria NAHCON, Alh Zikrullah Hassan, is not supposed to travel for hajj when a reasonable number of pilgrims from across Nigeria are still not sure of if they will be airlifted to Saudi Arabia for this year’s hajj.”
According to him, leaders are expected to be the last to leave for hajj to ensure that no intending pilgrim is left behind.
He admonished leaders at all levels to be fair and just in their dealings with subordinates as they would account for their stewardship before Allah on the day of judgement.
Meanwhile, a statement by Assistant Director, Public Affairs, NAHCON, Fatima Sanda Usara, notified Nigerian intending pilgrims and other stakeholders in the Hajj and Umrah industry that the chairman had to proceed to Saudi Arabia to enable him make further arrangements in the interest of Nigerian pilgrims.
With a few hours to the deadline of landing permits granted to the Nigerian government by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, about 5,000 pilgrims may be left behind as activities of this year’s Hajj continue to face hitches.
Pilgrims and some officials from state pilgrim boards have accused NAHCON of incompetence and cutting corners on processing visas, which has led to a lot of visa cancellations and the inability of assigned carriers to efficiently airlift pilgrims.
Officials of state Muslim pilgrims’ boards also alleged the sale of visa slots by some staff of NAHCON.
They expressed their displeasure over NAHCON’s action in replacing their visa slots with others, especially from tour operators.
As of Tuesday afternoon, NAHCON announced that 29,128 pilgrims and 920 officials had been safely airlifted to Saudi Arabia while 8,620 visas from private tour operators had been processed.
The Saudi Arabian airspace was expected to be closed by Wednesday midnight, but it was extended by 24 hours.