By Ndahi Marama, Maiduguri 

A total of 43,000 Nigerian intending pilgrims have been airlifted to Saudi Arabia for the 2022 Hajj exercise, after flagging off by President Muhammadu Buhari.

Recall that the exercise has not been conducted in the last two years following the outbreak of COVID -19 pandemic.

Inaugurating the maiden flight at the International Airport, Maiduguri, President Buhari, represented by Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno state, said: “I am indeed grateful to Almighty Allah to flag off the maiden flight of the 2022 Hajj exercise here in Maiduguri.”

He said due to COVID- 19 pandemic, the exercise was banned in 2020, while in 2021 it was restricted to Saudi citizens only.

He thanked God that with the decrease of the spread of the pandemic, Nigerians are witnessing the maiden flight for this year’s Hajj exercise here in Borno state.”

President Muhammadu Buhari said that Nigeria is facing a lot of challenges and urged the intending pilgrims to pray for Nigeria to overcome the security challenges and successful transition of power come 2023.

The President urged the intending pilgrims to be good ambassadors of the nation by shunning any activities that will tarnish the image of the country.

Earlier, the Borno state Deputy Governor, Alhaji Umar Kadafur, who is also the Chairman of the 2022 Borno Hajj Committee said: “A total of 546 pilgrims from Borno state are to be airlifted today (Thursday) in Maiduguri during the inaugural flight.”

He urged the intending pilgrims to be good ambassadors of the state and Nigeria in general, while in the Holy land, especially strict adherence to COVID protocols.

Also speaking, the Chairman National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), Alhaji Zikhirulah Hassan, said: “A total of 43,000 intending Nigerian pilgrims are slated for the 2022 Hajj exercise and urged them to be law abiding and to exhibit good character, while in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

“This year’s exercise is a special one because it is the first time in two years that the exercise is resuming due to the COVID -19 pandemic,” he added.

In his remarks, the Shehu of Borno, Alhaji Abubakar Ibn Garbai Elkanemi thanked the Federal Government and President Buhari for choosing Borno for the inaugural airlift for the 2022 Hajj exercise.

Also in his welcome address, the Chairman of Borno State Pilgrim Board, Sheik Ahmed Arabi Abdulfatahi, said a total of over 1,300 intending pilgrims will be airlifted in Borno this year, adding that 546 pilgrims are to be airlifted in the inaugural flight.

By Biodun Busari

The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has given Friday, June 17, as a deadline for political parties to send the names of their presidential candidates and running mates.

It also issued Friday, July 15 as a deadline for the parties to submit names of gubernatorial candidates and their running mates.

INEC said it has created a Nomination Centre at its headquarters where it can receive and process nominations sent by political parties ahead of the 2023 general elections.

The electoral umpire also set up telephone lines to serve as Help Desk for the parties in case they need any kind of assistance from the Commission.

INEC revealed that the deadlines for political parties to send their nominations before the portal will be shut down are Friday, June 17 for presidential, Senatorial and House of Representatives elections, while Friday 15 July, 2022 for Governorship and House of Assembly elections.

It revealed these on its Twitter page on Wednesday stating, “All nominations must be uploaded on/before the deadlines.”

It continues: “The portal will automatically shut down at 6.00pm (1800hrs) on Friday 17th June 2022 for national elections and 6.00pm (1800hrs) on Friday 15th July 2022 for State elections.

According to INEC, the idea was established to remove physical meeting that might occur among party officials and Commission staff.

“With this innovation, the Commission has eliminated the physical interface between party officials and INEC staff for the purpose of submitting the list of candidates for the 2023 General Election.”

“For emphasis, the Commission wishes to remind Political Parties that only the names of candidates that emerged from democratic primaries as provided by Section 84 of the Electoral Act 2022 shall be submitted to the Commission.

“Similarly, the list of all Presidential and Governorship candidates must be accompanied by the names of their running mates (i.e. Vice Presidential and Deputy Governorship candidates) without which the nomination is invalid,” INEC said.

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