By Oscarline Onwuemenyi & Joseph Erunke

The National Hajj Commission (NAHCON) has described as untrue reports that female Muslim pilgrims who were airlifted back to Nigeria last week were deported by the Saudi Arabian government.

Instead,the commission said the sudden return of the female pilgrims was at the instance of Nigerian government,which wanted to rectify certain anomalies.

It said Nigeria has not violated any Saudi Arabian law to warrant deportation of the pilgrims.

Addressing a press briefing in Abuja yesterday, the Chairman of NAHCON, Mallam Mohammed Musa Bello, reiterated that the issue of a male companion for female pilgrims to the kingdom is a fundamental aspect of the hajj exercise which Nigeria cannot afford to violate.

He said that the Federal Government delegation to Saudi Arabia was also not denied visa to the kingdom noting that the issue of the departure of the delegation has to do with the disparity in timing between the two countries.

This was as he said that the suspended airlifting operation of the pilgrims would resume as soon as all the challenges that led to the problem are addressed.  He added that eight states with 32 flight schedules are on standby to commence operation when the challenges are sorted out.

He gave assurance that all the pilgrims would be airlifted before the October 20 closing date of the King Abdulazeez International Airport Jeddah and Madinah airport, saying the approved air carriers for the operation, Max Airline, Mediview, Meridiene and Kabo airlines, are all set to commence airlifting.


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