Three days into the airlift of Nigerian pilgrims back to Nigeria after completing this year’s hajj rites, a total of 1,782 pilgrims have so far been airlifted back home.
The inbound flight of Nigerians commenced last Friday, three days after the completion of the 2022 Hajj, which was held after two years break due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic worldwide.
A total of 423 pilgrims from the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) made the maiden inbound flight on July 15 from Jeddah international airport to the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja.
The flight departed Jeddah at about 8:18 am Saudi Arabian time (6:18 am Nigerian time) aboard Saudi Arabian airline, FlyNas, flight.
Another batch of 424 FCT pilgrims left Jeddah for Abuja at about 2:58 am Saudi time, also on a FlyNas flight, on Saturday, July 16.
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Later on Saturday, 420 pilgrims from Osun State with nine officials departed Jeddah for Abuja with FlyNas at 11:21 pm (Saudi time).
At about 5:48 am on Sunday, July 17, 515 Borno State pilgrims left Jeddah for Maiduguri with, a Nigerian airline, Max Air, with four officials onboard.
Some Lagos State pilgrims were scheduled to depart for Lagos later on Sunday.
Unlike the outbound flights that witnessed some flights delays and cancellations, the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) had said it was determined to ensure a hitch-free airlift of Nigerian pilgrims back home before the August 13 deadline given by the Saudi Arabian aviation authorities for all countries to complete the evacuation of their pilgrims from the holy land.
Speaking at the post-Arafat meeting NAHCON held with stakeholders last week, the commission’s Assistant Director in charge of its aviation unit, Engineer Goni Sanda, said all the three airlines which airlifted Nigerian pilgrims to Saudi Arabia had been told to airlift the pilgrims before the August 13 deadline.
According to Sanda, “After Arafat, the most important thing is the return journey; everybody wants to go back to Nigeria.
“For the Nigerian journey, we have three carriers. We have Max Air, which airlifted 14,037; FlyNas airlifted 10,722 and Azman airlifted 6,052. They are expected to return all the pilgrims before the deadline.”
While saying that each pilgrim is expected to spend an average of 37 days in Saudi Arabia, he, however, urged the state pilgrims welfare boards officials to liaise with the NAHCON Makkah office with a view to knowing when their pilgrims are scheduled to return back to Nigeria.