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Over two million muslims gather on Mount Arafat

*Pray for Nigeria on 2019, NAHCON chair begs Pilgrims
*Reads riot acts to officials
By Ishola Balogun, Saudi Arabia

Over two million muslims including 55, 000 Nigerians will today gathered on Mount Arafat, about 20 kilometers southeast of Makkah for the core hajj rites.

Standing in prayer at the plains of Arafat (wuqoof Arafah) is a condition for hajj. All pilgrims will be on the plains of Arafat in total devotion from dawn till sunset climaxing the hajj rites. The area covers about 110,000 square meters. They will then proceed to Muzdalifah where they are expected to observe the sunset and night prayers combined, sleep till Tuesday in preparation for the casting of pebbles.

Since late Saturday night, all roads and highways leading into Muna, the vast tent city were filled with pilgrims, most of whom traveled in buses and other vehicles while some others on foot. All Nigerian pilgrims have arrived Muna and ready for the Arafat hajj rites.

Sheikh Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais, the Chief of the Imams of the two Holy Mosques in Makkah and Madinah will deliver the sermon in Arabic. It was gathered that the sermon will be translated in 16 other languages including English, Urdu, Persian, French and
Malay among others to enable the pilgrims as well as Muslims around the world listen to the direct translation of the sermon through special radio frequencies.

Meanwhile, the Chairman, National Hajj Commission, NAHCON, Barrister Abdullah Muktar Muhammad has implored Nigerian pilgrims to pray for Nigeria for a successful 2019 general elections. According to him, “Pray for Nigeria for a successful general elections next year.

This is the hajj that comes before the next general elections. It is only when we have peace and development that we will be happy as a people.´´
Barrister Muhammad also read a riot act to all state pilgrims officials on the use of ambulances and welfare of pilgrims.

Speaking at a pre-Arafat stakeholders meeting held on Saturday evening in Makkah, Barrister Muhammad warned that any state that failed to release ambulance for the use of other state pilgrims will be sanctioned.

“If there is any need to use your ambulance and the ambulance is not released, you can be sure that before we return to Nigeria, we will write the Saudi authorities and ensure that such ambulance is de-registered. The ambulance is meant for Nigerian pilgrims and at such emergency need we cannot tolerate such action. The Saudi relates with the National Hajj Commission and not the states.“

He also warned state pilgrims not to hang or use any political banner or material that contains the political message in Muna or anywhere during their stay in Makkah. “The Saudi authorities frowns at that, they don’t tolerate political messages anywhere during hajj. It is against their laws,“ he said.

Barriter Muhammad also said that delivery of food will be much easier this time as the
kitchen of the food providers have been moved to the tents of pilgrims to forestall being trapped in road traffic, warning all State Pilgrims Welfare Boards, Agencies and their Pilgrims to ensure total compliance and obedience to all Saudi rules, regulations and guidelines for a smooth Hajj exercise.

He added that any disregard to these Saudi laid down rules, regulations and guidelines, might not only affect the Nigerian contingent, but would likely jeopardizes the entire Saudi arrangement which might be detrimental to the Pilgrims of other nations.

He reiterated all Nigerian Pilgrims that paid for this year’s Hajj, have been successfully airlifted to the holy land, including those of the Private Tour Operators.

He hinted that from next year’s Hajj operation, the BTA of State government sponsored Pilgrims would be remitted along with intending Pilgrims’ fares to ensure provision of the monies by the Central Bank of Nigeria with little or no much stress.

Do everything possible to ensure successful hajj–ambassador Dodo

The Nigerian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Justice Muhammad Isa Dodo also called on all Nigerian Hajj affairs handlers to do everything humanly possible to ensure a smooth and successful Hajj exercise.

Ambassador Dodo was speaking at the Pre-Arafat meeting organized by NAHCON Saturday in Makkah.

The Ambassador said the officials owe it a duty to ensure the wellbeing of the Pilgrims through guidance and counseling.

He stated that it was their responsibility to ensure the Pilgrims´ comfort by providing conducive accommodation, health and other welfare service particularly at the Mashaa’ir (religious) sites.

Nigeria, Saudi Arabia authorities releases helplines

As part of the ways of ensuring hitch free hajj exercise, the Nigeria Hajj Commission, NAHCON and Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Dawah and Guidance have released 24-hour helplines during Hajj season to answer enquiries of pilgrims. NAHCON helpline as released and put to test during the Pre-Arafat Stakeholders meeting as are: 920008251.

Also, a statement from the Saudi Press Agency said its hotline numbers are 800-245-1000 adding that no fewer than 128 Islamic preachers will be available to answer queries on the hotline.

Through this service, the ministry aims to offer awareness and guidance to pilgrims. It said the preachers will be available to provide information on any Hajj procedures by answering questions on the free hotline.

59 telephone lines will be dedicated to the service, 24 in Makkah, 6 in Madinah and 29 in the sites of Menna, Muzdalifah and Arafat. The lines will operate based on the telecommunications relay service, that receives the call directly and transfers to the next line if there’s no answer.

Also, Maj. Gen. Mansour Al-Turki, security spokesman at the Ministry of Interior, said that the number of pilgrims from within the Kingdom and abroad for this year’s Hajj has exceeded two million.

All the concerned authorities and agencies have completed their preparations and arrangements to facilitate the smooth flow of pilgrims between Makkah and the holy sites of Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifah. He said that 88 percent of the foreign pilgrims came by air, of which 50 percent arrived in Madinah while the rest reached Makkah and they will make their Madinah visit after Hajj.

Meanwhile, the weather around Arafah and Makkah is projected at 46 degree. The General Presidency of the two holy mosques has launched the “umbrella for every pilgrim” program. The umbrellas are being distributed to protect pilgrims from the Saudi sun in Makkah.

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