Not more than 17,000 intending pilgrims from Nigeria may have missed this year’s hajj exercise, as Saudi authorities closed all entries to the Kingdom at midnight, on Friday, August 17, 2018.
The Saudi government officially shut border points, including air, sea and land, two days before the day of Arafat, which is scheduled for Monday, August 20, 2018, to among others, effectively manage both human and resources that would cater for over 1.7 million pilgrims from across the globe, who have already arrived in the holy cities. The country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, through its foreign missions, has issued 1.720 million visas to pilgrims across the world for this year’s hajj. Of the total number, 1,584,085 arrived by air, 84,381 by land and 16,163 by seaports.
Available records indicated that out of 55,000 pilgrims booked for Hajj by the Nigerian Hajj Commission, only 37,576 had so far been airlifted to Saudi Arabia, leaving 17,424 behind. An impeccable source revealed that the affected intending pilgrims, predominantly passengers from travel agencies, might have missed the opportunity this year, considering the closure of borders.
Another independent source hinted that about 5,000 of the international passengers from Kano State had been waiting endlessly at Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport for possible last-minute airlift to Saudi Arabia.
According to him: “How do you expect 5,000 people to leave Nigeria in one flight or even in two days? You know is not possible, that means automatically some will not be able to make it. “But another dimension to it is that majority of those affected are passengers of the travel agencies and, as you know, NAHCON will consider all pilgrims from states first as a matter of priority.”
Efforts to speak with Ahmad Muhazu, the representative of the hajj commission in Makkah, was unsuccessful, as he did not pick several calls to his telephone line, just as he did not respond to text messages.
Meanwhile, the custodian of the two sacred mosques of Makkah and Medinaon Friday urged pilgrims to avoid the emerging congestion and crowd mounting on the holy cities, especially during congregation prayers.
The statement signed by Rami Bin Saleh Labani, the Chairman, Board of Directors of the establishment, advised pilgrims to consider praying in the local mosques around their residents for the safety of their lives. Over 1.2 million pilgrims observed Friday prayers at the sacred mosque in Makkah under maximum high temperature of 45 degrees Celsius.
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