By Ishola Balogun, Reporting from Saudi Arabia
No fewer than 1,617 pilgrims from Lagos State to the 2022 Hajj in Saudi Arabia have returned home.
This was contained in a release signed by the Lagos State Pilgrims Welfare Board Public Relations Officer, Mr. Taofeek Lawal.
The statement stated that the 1,617 pilgrims were airlifted in four flights, adding that the few remaining pilgrims, who are mostly officials of the State Government are expected back in the country soon.
According to the release, the arrival of the fourth batch of 345 pilgrims who arrived on board a Flynas Airline with flight number XY7044 landed at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Ikeja at 2.05am Wednesday, increased the total pilgrims already at home to 1,617.
Also in the flight were 81 pilgrims from Oyo State.
The State Amir-ul-hajj and Commissioner for Home Affairs, Prince Anofiu Olanrewaju Elegushi expressed gratitude to Allah for preserving the lives of every pilgrim and granting them the wherewithal to actively perform all the essential rites of the spiritual exercise.
The Hon. Commissioner who Spoke through the Special Adviser to the Governor on Islamic matters, Alh. Ahmad Abdullahi Jebe, also appreciated Governor Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu and his deputy, Dr. Kadri Obafemi Hamzat for their steadfastness and supports they rendered for the pilgrims while in the holy land.
He said that the administration ensured that the welfare and comfort of the pilgrims were given utmost priority in the area of accommodation, feeding, Ihram clothes, transportation, amongst others through out the exercise.
He also appreciated the pilgrims for their tolerance, understanding and cooperation with government officials, stressing that their exemplary conducts have further elevated the enviable status of the State as the number one in Hajj operations amongst the states in Nigeria.
Elegushi who described the 2022 Hajj as very remarkable, noted that every exercise usually comes with its challenges and peculiarities. He however expressed optimism that the next year’s Hajj would be much better than the present.
On his part, the Board Chairman, Engr. (Imam) Shakiru Ayinde Gafar said that the Saudi Arabian authority has shown signs of its preparedness to lift all the restrictions placed on this year’s Hajj, going forward.
He added that in realization of this fact, the State would work assiduously towards improving its operations in order to secure befitting accommodation for about 3,000 to 4,000 intending pilgrims expected to perform the spiritual exercise through the state next year.
The Chairman also pointed out that there is need for improvement in the area of feeding. He noted that the Saudi Arabian authority did not accord Nigerian caterers the right to prepare our local delicacies for the pilgrims. He however emphasized that the attention of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) had been drawn to this challenge and steps would be taken to allow the inclusion of indigenous caterers.
Some of the pilgrims who spoke to the press expressed their gratitude to Allah, the State Government and its officials for providing them the enabling environment and comfort throughout the stay in the Kingdom.
Other Board members on the flight included, Alh. Mojeed Sanni (Ikorodu Division); Alhaji Yusuf Ara (Epe Division); Hon. AbdulWaheed Lolade Shonibare (Ikeja Division) as well as some sub-committee members.