By Demola Akinyemi & Lawani Mikairu
Ilorin—Angry intending Pilgrims to the 2019 Holy Pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia from Ondo, Ekiti and part of Oyo states, yesterday, shut operations at the Ilorin airport over delayed flight to the Holy land.
This came as Governor Abdulrazaq Abdulrahman informed that every intending pilgrim registered with the state Government had since been airlifted to Saudi Arabia for the 2019 Hajj, explaining that there were 2,026 pilgrims from the state, the last batch of which took off on July 24, 2019.
Governor Abdulrahman’s Chief Press Secretary, CPS, Rafiu Ajakaiye, in a statement exonerating Kwara pilgrims and state government from the protest, explained that’ To that extent, the protest this morning (yesterday) at the Ilorin International Airport was by some intending pilgrims from neighbouring states. This has no connection whatsoever with the Kwara State Government or officials of Kwara State Muslim Pilgrims Board as being claimed by some persons.
Meanwhile, the enraged pilgrims who began protesting at about 3am, blocked the Ilorin/Ogbomoso/Ibadan express road with used tyres and shut the gate leading to the Airport, preventing Airport workers from resuming duty.
They equally prevented vehicles from coming in or going out of the Airport, claiming they had been in Ilorin Hajj camp for the past 15 days without provision of an Aircraft to convey them to Saudi Arabia for the Holy Pilgrimage while they were subjected to poor and unhygienic condition at the Camp.
One of the aggrieved intending pilgrims identified as Ayobami Muftau said, “we have been in camp for 15 days sleeping on bare floor and buying food at exorbitant prices from our purse. We were moved to the Airport on Saturday based on the promise that an Aircraft would arrive to convey us to Jeddah at 11pm on Saturday. But up till now, we have not seen the Aircraft and there was no explanation from the concerned authority.”
Ayobami appealed to the Federal government to intervene urgently by providing an aircraft that would transport them to Saudi Arabia to perform the Hajj rites.
Another pilgrim from Ekiti state, Usman Isa, who said they left Aiyede-Ekiti 10 days ago, alleged that the pilgrims were exposed to harsh weather conditions as “all of us, both male and female were made to sleep in the open hall at the hajj camp and Airport.”
However, the Acting Manager of Ilorin Airport, Mr. Deji Eniola, said the problem facing the pilgrims emanated from Med-View Airline delegated to convey them to Saudi Arabia.
He explained that the Med-View Airline was being expected in Ilorin since Saturday but did not come adding that “there is no explanation from the management of the Airline on why it has not come to airlift the pilgrims. “
He expressed hope that the pilgrims would be airlifted soon.
Reacting to the development, Med-View airline said its inability to airlift the pilgrims at the Ilorin airport over the weekend was because the plane that was to carry out the assignment was diverted to Kaduna Airport to airlift the pilgrims there with the consent of Nigeria National Haj Commission, HAHCO.
The airline’s media consultant, Chief Obuke Oyibotha, in a telephone chat with Vanguard said however, that alternative arrangement was being made to airlift the Ilorin airport pilgrims, saying “they will soon be airlifted to Saudi Arabia. We are making arrangement to bring in another aircraft to airlift them.”