Lagos – The Lagos State Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Board (LSMPWB) has so far airlifted 2,379 intending pilgrims to Saudi Arabia for this year’s hajj exercise.
The airlifted pilgrims comprised of 994 males and 1,385 females.
The immediate past Commissioner for Home Affairs, Prince Anofiu Olanrewaju Elegushi disclosed this on Tuesday before the airlifting of the seventh batch of the state contingent on board a Flynas Airline XY 5722 with 415 intending pilgrims.
The pilgrims , comprising 157 males and 258 females left the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Ikeja at 2 a.m Nigerian time .
Elegushi stated that the airlifting exercise which was started last on June 1, 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 has been as fast as expected, the state would have by now moved all the intending pilgrims to Saudi Arabia.
He 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 to perform 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.
He promised 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 Co-ordinator 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 Elegushi by giving assurances that none of them would be left behind without securing their visa.
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.
The State was allocated 3,644 slots for this year’s hajj out of which 2,379 have already been airlifted to Saudi Arabia.