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Nigeria records quota deficit as Saudi clears 55,000 pilgrims for 2018 Hajj

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Saudi Arabia has cleared 55, 000 Nigeria pilgrims for 2018 Hajj operations, the number, which fell short of the 95, 000 quota earlier given to the country. Already, over 14,160 pilgrims from the country have arrived the holy city of Medinah while 35, 000 are expected to be airlifted before the commencement of the Hajj rites.

The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), which confirmed the shortfall, debunked media reports that its chairman, Barrister Abdullahi Mukhtar Muhammad, blamed the Saudi government for low turn-out of pilgrims due to early closure of the Kingdom’s Hajj portal. NAHCON’s chairman, a statement by the commission’s Head of Public Affairs, Fatima Sanda Usara read, did not blame the Kingdom for closure of Hajj registration portal during a recent chat with pressmen in Abuja.

NAHCON therefore cautioned journalists against straining the good diplomatic relations between Nigeria and Saudi Arabia. “The Commission would like to clarify that at no time during the interview did its distinguished Chairman, who reveres the relationship between Nigeria and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, come anywhere close to blaming the Kingdom for closure of Hajj registration portal. “In fact, in so many instances, he justified the closure seeing that an extension for the deadline was obtained thrice.

“Instead, he blamed Nigerian pilgrims’ attitude of treating Hajj registration with a lackluster manner, waiting until the last minute to make efforts for registration,” the statement read. “Those present at the forum would testify that several times during the interview, the NAHCON’s head appreciated the Saudi government and its mission in Nigeria for their support on Hajj and Umrah matters,” it added.

The statement added that Barrister Muhammad “distinctly said when it comes to Hajj, they wait until the last minute. He further expressed hope that henceforth, Nigerians may learn to prepare for Hajj well ahead of time, seeing how it affected late comers this time.”

“True, some Nigerians’ late Hajj registration attitude has always been a major setback to Hajj planning in the country. The Commission had hoped that the new Saudi policy that sets a deadline to closure of Hajj portal will motivate intending pilgrims to finally have a change of attitude from the typical,” it said. Meanwhile, no fewer than 14,160 Nigerian pilgrims have so far been airlifted to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the 2018, Muslims pilgrimage. A total of 55,000 pilgrims are expected from Nigeria to join over one million pilgrims globally for this year’s Islamic ritual at Mecca and Medina.

Besides, the Kano State Pilgrims Board will today conclude airlifting of 2,811 pilgrims. Available information obtained from the official website of National Hajj Commission of Nigerian (NAHCON) yesterday indicated that Adamawa, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, Lagos, Nassarawa, Sokoto, Kano, Kogi, Kwara, Kaduna and Kebbi have already airlifted their pilgrims.

The journey, which commenced with the inaugural flight on Saturday, July 27, 2018, has so far used 35 flights through Saudi’s airline Flynas, Max Air and Medview. Secretary of the board, Mohammad Abba Danbatta told journalists in Kano, that of the 2,811 passengers registered for this year’s hajj, no fewer than 2, 200 had since arrived Medina in four trips.

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