By Ishola Balogun, Saudi Arabia
The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria, NAHCON, has debunked a media report that over 17,000 registered Nigerian pilgrims have been left stranded in the country for this year’s Hajj, following the closure of entry into Saudi Arabia, yesterday.
A national daily (not Vanguard) had reported that over 17,000 intending pilgrims might be stranded in Nigeria.
However, in a swift reaction, the NAHCON’s Commissioner of Operations, Alhaji Abdullahi Moddibo on yesterday (Saturday) told newsmen in Makkah that no Nigerian pilgrim that paid through the State Pilgrims Welfare Boards and Licensed Travel Agencies was left behind.
Alhaji Moddibo emphasised that all pilgrims that registered with state pilgrims’ boards and the 18,000 that paid through agencies this year had been airlifted to Saudi Arabia.
“Unless there are cases of missing flights by the pilgrims, all our pilgrims that paid through state welfare boards and travel agencies had been airlifted.
“I don’t know where this newspaper got this 17,000 figure. This story is untrue and uncalled for. It was deliberately fabricated to cause confusion, which is worrisome in view of the fact that Hajj is an important act that could not be tempered with,” he said.
Moddibo also revealed that over 100 flights had so far been conducted, adding that the last flight of the pilgrims would have departed Abuja on Saturday night.
He, however, attributed the late completion of airlift to the delays in payment of Hajj fares by some Pilgrims, noting that the development forced NAHCON to request for extension three times.
On his part, the Chairman Nigerian Tour Operators, Abubakar Muhammad also denied the report, saying all the pilgrims that register through their agencies had been airlifted, according to the records at their disposal.