The Lagos State Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Board (LSMPWB) has so far airlifted a total of 2,379 intending pilgrims comprising of 994 males and 1,385 females to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the holy pilgrimage exercise.
The immediate past Commissioner for Home Affairs, Prince Anofiu Olanrewaju Elegushi disclosed this during the airlift of the seventh batch of the state contingent on board a Flynas Airline XY 5722 with 415 intending pilgrims (157 males and 258 females) at 2 a.m Nigerian time from the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Ikeja, on Tuesday.
Elegushi stated that the airlifting exercise which was kick-started last week Thursday, June 1, ahead of the initial scheduled date of June 4, has been encouraging so far. He noted that the only challenge was the delay being experienced in the issuance of visas by the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Abuja.
According to him, if the visa issuance had been as fast as expected, the state would have by now moved all the intending pilgrims to the Kingdom. He, however, added that the Embassy had been contacted to fast-track the processes with a view to ensuring that all the remaining intending pilgrims get their visas within the shortest period of time so that they can join other Muslims across the world in performing the Hajj rites in accordance with the teachings of the Holy Prophet.
While commending the intending pilgrims for their patience, perseverance and understanding despite the challenges on visa issuance, he appealed to them not to get frustrated about the situation but to continue to bear with the State as it works hard to surmount the challenges, promising that none of the government officials would travel for the exercise until all the paid intending pilgrims are satisfactorily airlifted.
Elegushi also commended the South West Zonal Coordinator of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), Mr. Gafar Odunola Babatunde and his team as well as Flynas Airline for the excellent services they have both delivered since the airlifting exercise began. He particularly appreciated the Airline for its exemplary conduct which had greatly assisted the state in achieving the milestone.
Addressing the intending pilgrims before their departure, the Board Chairman, Imam (Engr.) Shakiru Ayinde Gafar also applauded them for their peaceful conduct over the delay in the issuance of visas.
While noting that the visa could only be issued by the Saudi Embassy, he corroborated Prince Elegushi by giving assurances that none of them would be left behind without securing their visa, stressing that the state was equal to the task and would do everything humanly possible to assuage their feelings.
The Officer in Charge of the Nigeria Drugs Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Chief Superintendent of Narcotics, Alhaji Isiaku Mohammed Salau told reporters that in line with its mandate, the agency will ensure that all the intending pilgrims travelling through the airport are thoroughly screened with a view to ensuring that none of them leaves the country with illicit drugs and other prohibited items.
He cautioned others yet to be airlifted to avoid taking along prohibited items such as Tramadol, Kolanut and Heroine among others, saying if they are caught whether in Nigeria or in Saudi Arabia, they would be punished in accordance with the country’s laws.
Recall that the State was allocated 3,644 slots for this year’s spiritual exercise by NAHCON out of which 2,379 have already been airlifted to the Kingdom.