Wednesday, 6th December 2023

Lagos concludes Hajj 2023 operation as last batch of pilgrims arrive safely

By Shakirah Adunola 
21 July 2023   |   4:00 am
The last and final batch of the state pilgrims that participated in the 2023 Hajj exercise in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has arrived in Lagos.

Former Special Assistant to the governor on religious matters, Dr. Abdullah Jebe (right); former Commissioner for Home Affairs, Prince Anofiu Elegushi;  Board Chairman, Shakiru Ayinde Gafar, and Board member, Mojeed Sanni Mojeed at Muritala Muhammed International Airport, during the arrival of the last batch of Lagos pilgrims… yesterday

The last and final batch of the state pilgrims that participated in the 2023 Hajj exercise in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has arrived in Lagos.

Yesterday, the Flynas flight XY7678 conveying the 364 Lagos pilgrims departed King AbdulAzeez International Airport, Jeddah at 10.29am Saudi Arabian time (8.29am Nigerian time) and touched down at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport at 3:30pm.

Amir-ul-Hajj and former Lagos State Commissioner of Home Affairs, Prince Anofiu Olanrewaju Elegushi was delighted that the operation was successful.

“I’m the happiest man in the world, having been able to bring back thousands of pilgrims that I led to the holy land successfully.”

He said pertaining to the challenges encountered during the holy exercise, Lagos State was able to scale through due to help from the state governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu and adequate machinery put on ground.

“I don’t think there is any hitch-free hajj operation. But with proper planning and a formidable team, we scaled through.

“We have some aged pilgrims with us and we were able to manage them throughout the exercise. Also, the issue of bed space in Mina, we were able to manage it  too, though the problem was not from the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), but from the Saudi Arabia authority.”

Elegushi urged NAHCON to reduce its autonomy and relinquish some rights to the States. “NAHCON should trust us to deliver on some activities if given the chance. They should trust the states to handle things, entrust certain activities to us and guide us”, he said.

Speaking on future plans, the Amir-ul-Hajj said that with effect from 2024 hajj, the Board would go digital on the sales of Hajj form. He said, “As from next year, the purchase of Hajj form, payment for Hajj fare and all processes would be done online in order to reduce paper work and time”.

He also added that there would be improvement in accommodation and feeding for the pilgrims.

He commended the Lagos State Governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu for fulfilling his promise to pilgrims and making the holy exercise worthwhile.

“The state governor intervened in so many areas and this has made the board overcome all major challenges.

“We started airlifting earlier and we were able to conclude operation earlier as well.”

Specifically, he appreciated the governor’s generosity by paying for the Ihram of all Lagos pilgrims.

He added that Lagos state recorded only one death, a pilgrim receiving treatment in the holy land and a pilgrim was left behind due to misplacement of his passport and he would join us as soon the passport is sorted out.

On Wednesday in Makkah, Elegushi had told the last batch that the final trip had been confirmed while clearance from the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) and the airline gotten.

With the arrival of the last batch, the 3,619 out of 3, 622 pilgrims from the state had rejoined their families.

The state lost one pilgrim, Alhaja Kuburat Adunni Shekoni who died in Makkah after completing the Hajj rites. The deceased, a 66 years old female pilgrim from Oshodi-Isolo Local Government, was found dead in the bathroom by her roommate and doctors at the NAHCON medical center later related her transition to natural cause.

It would be recalled that the return journey of Lagos pilgrims began on July 10 with the arrival of the first batch ‘Special flight’ of 380 pilgrims comprising the elderly ones and those with medical challenges via a Flynas airline XY 7656.

Amir-ul-Hajj stressed that the return journey gained two days as it was initially planned to end on July 22.

During the out-bound journey which began with the national inaugural flight on May 25, Lagos commenced the airlift of its pilgrims from June 1, 2023.