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Over 15,000 Nigerian Muslim pilgrims ‘stranded’ as Saudi Arabia extends airlifting

By Shakirah Adunola (Riyadh) and Murtala Adewale (Kano)
05 July 2022   |   2:40 am
Of the 43,008 worshippers billed for the trip, 27,359, inclusive of 527 staff, as well as committee and board members, had been conveyed.

Azman Air

There was anxiety yesterday, as over 15,000 intending Nigerian pilgrims wait to be airlifted to Saudi Arabia.

Of the 43,008 worshippers billed for the trip, 27,359, inclusive of 527 staff, as well as committee and board members, had been conveyed.

In Kano, Executive Secretary of the state’s Pilgrims Welfare Board, Alhaji Mohammad Abba Danbatta, accused Azman Air of “lacking the capacity to manage the conveyance of pilgrims to Saudi Arabia.”

Addressing reporters, Danbatta said the state had lodged a formal complaint with NAHCON.

He said: “Despite the formal request to allow Kano to operate Max Air, National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON)-assigned Azman Air to airlift Kano pilgrims which are over 2000, and since the operation started, this airline can only airlift 900 pilgrims.

“ Just yesterday, Azman directed us to call our pilgrims for airlift to Saudi Arabia. We summoned over 400 pilgrims for screening at the camp, and they were left stranded for over 24 hours. We intimated NAHCON about the development, only (for them) to inform us that Azman would no longer airlift Kano passengers. This is so unfortunate. Now we are told that Saudi air, FlyNas, has been assigned to Kano.”

“NAHCON said Henceforth two air carriers from Saudi Arabia would arrive Aminu Kano international anytime from now. They said the remaining pilgrims would be airlifted before the closing date.”

Reacting to the development, Assistant General Manager, Azman Air, Nuruddeen Aliyu, told journalists that for reasons beyond their control, NAHCON directed the airline to rather concentrate on the airlifting Kaduna Pilgrims.

Meanwhile, in a statement released on Monday, NAHCON disclosed the General Authority for Civil Aviation, GACA, of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has granted an extension of landing permit to intending pilgrims from Nigeria to enable them to perform the 2022 hajj exercise.

The permission, sequel to the request tendered by NAHCON, ceded waiver to carriers’ continued operations.

Besides GACA has approved the extension of landing permits for Nigerian pilgrims under the aegis of NAHCON.

Commencing tomorrow till a day after for one of the airlines, NAHCON sought the elongation to allow for airlifting of remaining 2022 hajj pilgrims.

Similarly, over 5,000 of the 8,097 tour operators had been airlifted.

The extension followed flight cancellations and delays.