The Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, on Sunday, inaugurated the airlifting of Nigerian pilgrims to Saudi Arabia for the 2017 Hajj at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
Osinbajo, who was represented by the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Mallam Muhammed Bello, commended the National Hajj Commission (NAHCON) and aviation agencies for the arrangement being put in place.
He said the inaugural flight was the beginning of the hard work to be done by the officials at the holy land in guiding the pilgrims to perform the hajj.
Osinbajo commended the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for ensuring that all obstacles to 2017 Hajj pilgrimage were removed as well as the aviation agencies for ensuring smooth flight operations during the exercise.
According to him, airlifting is the beginning of the tasks to be carried out by the officials during Hajj operation.
“As you are all aware, what we are witnessing today is a culmination of intense hard work, dedication and commitment by Hajj officials.
“The work commenced when the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Hajia Khadija Abba-Ibrahim, led a delegation to Saudi Arabia where the MoU for the 2017 Hajj was signed.
“This inaugural airlift is the beginning of the intense hard work to be done because you cannot say that the work is done until the pilgrims going to Saudi Arabia have an acceptable hajj and return back safely.
“So, I want to commend the agencies of government particularly the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the effort in ensuring that Nigeria got back the 20 per cent quota lost years ago,” he said.
He also commended the Ministry of Aviation and all its agencies for the support given to pilgrims.
The Acting President urged the pilgrims to pray for the peace and prosperity of the country while in the holy land.
Osinbajo also called on the pilgrims to represent Nigeria properly within the short period in the holy land.
“So, each and every one of you is an ambassador of this beautiful country and I urge you to conduct yourself and I pray that when you go you will have a rewarding pilgrimage.”
Earlier, Sen. Hadi Sirika, Minister of State for Aviation, said that pilgrimage was a journey that encompassed all aspect of lives of Muslims.
Sirika called on the pilgrims to maintain peace and avoid rancour with their fellow pilgrims during the pilgrimage to enable them reap the benefits thereof.
The minister also admonished them to ensure that they understood the practice of hajj before they arrived Saudi Arabi , adding that there were books written in different Nigerian languages to guide them.
He also advised them to avoid carrying items that were prohibited on aircraft and in foreign land to avoid embarrassment.
“Do not engage in things that would cause conflict between you and your fellow pilgrims, this is a command, so go to Hajj and return safely, it will be as if you are born newly.
”This rancour that occurs between you and your fellow pilgrim is what destroys your exercise. What makes your pilgrimage a success, is your ability to be in harmony with everybody,” said.
He gave assurance that the government had put in place adequate logistics that would ensure smooth transportation of all pilgrims to Saudi Arabia for the 2017 hajj.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), recalls that the Managing Director, Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Mr Saleh Dunoma, has assured of adequate preparation for the airlifting of pilgrims across Nigerian airports.
Dunoma disclosed that the 2017 Hajj operations would commence in Abuja with FlyNas Airline, Azman Airline and Max Air, the three carriers that were licensed to airlift pilgrims from July 31.
He urged pilgrims to get to the airport early to avoid missing their flights, adding that every requirement aimed at ensuring the safety, security and comfort of pilgrims had been met.
NAN reports that the first flight took off with 500 pilgrims from the Federal Capital Territory.