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Hajj commission warns pilgrims against illegal tour agencies

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Nigerian pilgrims boarding a MaxAir aircraft to Saudi Arabia for Hajj.

• S’Arabia declares August 20 Arafah Day
Natinal Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) yesterday warned intending pilgrims to patronise only licensed tour operators.

It cautioned them to resist any attempt by their travel agency to process their documents in another country. Describing such act as illegal, he said NAHCON would not be responsible for any loss.

In a statement signed by its spokesperson, Fatima Usara, the commission said it approved 110 tour agencies for the 2018 hajj.

She added that intending pilgrims were expected to have completed all travelling arrangements ahead of entry deadline.

Although, Saudi Arabia is yet to officially peg date for final entry, Nigerian pilgrims were allowed late entry two days to Arafah last year.

“Intending pilgrims should ensure that their payments are duly receipted and details of package on offer disclosed to them.

“Pilgrims are strictly advised against accepting half-packaged visas, while all hajj-licensed companies should ensure that their Saudi partners provide services commensurate with the package the clients paid for.

“Intending hajj pilgrims are equally warned not to patronise any tour operator/travel agency that will arrange passport or visa from another country for the purpose of travelling to the holy land, as this is illegal,” NAHCON noted.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has declared Monday, August 20, as Arafah Day, equivalent to the ninth day of Dhul-hajj 1439 in the Islamic calendar.

Traditionally, the second day of Arafah, which is Tuesday, August 21, marks eid-hadaya, the sallah festival when Muslims offer animals for sacrifice.

Arafah Day is special in Islam, as over two million pilgrims from across the world converge on Mount Arafat to offer special prayers as part of hajj rites.

The Haramain, the supreme authority in charge of the two mosques in Makka and Medina, headed by Sheikh Abdul Rahman Sudais, declared that the moon was sighted on Saturday, which made yesterday first of Dhul-hajj 1439.

“By implication, hajj activities start 8th Dhul-hajj, 1439 (August 19) and Arafah 9th Dhul-hajj 1439. Also, eid-alhaya follows on 10th,” stated Haramain.

About 55,000 pilgrims from Nigeria are expected to join others across the globe for the 2018 hajj at Makka and Medina.

However, Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State has tasked intending pilgrims from the state to be good ambassadors.

He told them to abide by the laws of their host country and shun conducts that could bring their names, the image of Ondo or Nigeria into disrepute.

The governor, who gave the advice during a farewell ceremony organised for 119 intending pilgrims to Saudi Arabia at the premises of the State Muslims Welfare Board, Akure, yesterday, congratulated them on the opportunity God provided them to fulfil one of the five pillars of Islam.

The governor added that his administration had provided the necessary support to ensure befitting accommodation, feeding and transport, both in Makkah and Medinah, for the pilgrims.

In a related development, a female pilgrim from Kano yesterday recovered her $700 from a Saudi hotelier in Medina.

Hassana Aliyu from Gezawa Council of Kano reportedly misplaced the money, believed to be part of her Basic Travelling Allowance (BTA), in the hotel and it was found by one of the house-keepers.

Reacting to the development, Head of Civic Enlightenment of NAHCON, Umar Bala, admonished pilgrims against careless handling of their valuables, as NAHCON or the Saudi authorities would not be held responsible for such negligence.


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