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Lagos State government denies defrauding hajj pilgrims, begins airlift

By Shakirah Adunola, Makkah, Saudi Arabia
18 July 2022   |   4:04 am
Lagos State Government has described as mischievous, false and untrue the allegation that the state pilgrims were forced to pay a higher amount for Hady (animal sacrifices) at the just-concluded 2022 hajj in Saudi Arabia.

Lagos pilgrims in Umrah, Makkah

Lagos State Government has described as mischievous, false and untrue the allegation that the state pilgrims were forced to pay a higher amount for Hady (animal sacrifices) at the just-concluded 2022 hajj in Saudi Arabia.

The state’s Commissioner for Home Affairs, Anofiu Olanrewaju Elegushi, denied the allegation, while speaking with the media at the Lagos House, Kingdom of the Saudi Arabia, where he led other top officials of the state to give account of stewardship on 2022 hajj operations.

Elegushi, who swiftly debunked the accusation at a press conference, said it was not true that the board collected money from all the pilgrims, adding that only 364 pilgrims out of the 1,672 paid $150 each to buy the Hady (sacrificial rams) slaughtered by all pilgrims on the 10th of Dhul-Hijjah.

He said: “Apart from the price of the Hady, which is within the region of 400 riyals, the $150 we collected comprised other services like ziyarah (visitation expenses), both in Makkah and Madinah. It is not the government that pays for ziyarah. It’s the pilgrims,” he said.

According to him, it is a norm that the board always collects the ram money from the pilgrims to make proper arrangements because some of the pilgrims in previous operations fell into the hands of crooks, who duped them, collected their money and did not even visit the slaughter farm, not to talk of slaughtering any ram for them.

He said: “To guard against this, the board decided then, not even now, that they would be the collector of the ram money. And they would be the one that would now appoint an authorised agent that would go and slaughter for all Lagos pilgrims.

“In this operation, we gave them options. We did not even force it on them. We said it is optional. If you don’t want to slaughter, you have other things to do to cover up for it. You can go fasting. So, you are free from the slaughtering of a ram. So, it was optional. They also had the option of patronising any agent that they preferred.

“If they want to go through the board, that was fine. The board would do the appropriate thing. And if they didn’t, we would have tried our best should they become victims of deception. Till now, we are still maintaining that position. That’s why we have that reduced figure of 364 pilgrims out of 1,672.”

Elegushi thanked Almighty Allah for the successful hajj exercise in spite of challenges, appreciating Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu and his deputy, Dr. Femi Hamzat, for their moral and financial support.

ALSO, Special Adviser to the Governor on Islamic Matters, Jebe, said such malicious report was the figment of the imagination of the detractors, who are envious of the state’s achievements at the hajj.

He said there was cordial relationship between the board and pilgrims before, during and even after hajj exercise, adding that the board was ready to render necessary assistance to the pilgrims.

Earlier in his address, the State Board Chairman, Alhaji Shakiru Ayinde Gafar (Mofesaye), had said the airlifting of pilgrims from Jeddah to Lagos would begin on Sunday, July 17, 2022.

He added that the airlifting exercise, which was in line with NAHCON’s timetable, would run through July 21, 2022, adding that by July 22, all the 1,655 pilgrims are expected to be in Lagos.