Drama as NAHCON chair is challenged from travelling to Saudi Arabia over stranded pilgrims
• Riyadh extends landing permit by 24 hours
Following logistics challenges that resulted instranded pilgrims to this year’s pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia, Chairman of National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), Zikrullah Hassan, has reportedly, been obstructed from travelling to the holy city.
A mild drama supposedly ensued on Tuesday evening at the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja, when the NAHCON boss, who had believably concluded boarding arrangement, was “blocked” by Executive Secretary of Niger State Pilgrims Welfare Board, Umar Makun Lapai.
The development, it was gathered, followed the 10,000 pilgrims still trapped nationwide.
The Niger pilgrims board hajj boss was reported to have barricaded the tarmac’s exit, insisting there was not justification for the NAHCON chief to leave Nigeria while thousands of pilgrims remained abandoned.
The non-violent confrontation, which lasted almost 30 minutes, attracted top NAHCON officials and stakeholders, The Guardian learnt.
Lapai was quoted saying that as NAHCON leader, Hassan “is not supposed to travel for hajj when a reasonable number of pilgrims from across Nigeria are still not sure if they would be airlifted.”
He reportedly insisted leaders “are expected to be the last to leave for hajj to ensure that no intending pilgrim is left behind.”
Confirming the development, spokesperson for Niger Pilgrims Welfare Board, Hajiya Hussan Isah, said her boss was only ensuring that the leadership of the hajj mission did the right thing.
“It is true that our boss confronted the NAHCON chairman. The message was very simple. We, the hajj managers, are here for the pilgrims, and if there is no pilgrim, I am sure we would not be here.”
When contacted, NAHCON’s image-maker, Fatima Usara, explained that Hassan was compelled to leave for Saudi Arabia to widen engagements with the relevant authorities in the kingdom in respect of the pilgrimage.
In a statement, yesterday, Usara said: “This is to bring to the notice of Nigerian intending pilgrims to the 2022 hajj and other stakeholders that NAHCON chairman, Alhaji Zikrullah Kunle Hassan, had to proceed to Saudi Arabia to enable him make further arrangement in the interest of Nigerian pilgrims.”
MEANWHILE, the Saudi authorities have extended landing permit to Nigerian pilgrims for another 24 hours. The fresh grace terminates by 11.59p.m. today (Thursday, July 7, 2022).