No fewer than 390 Lagos State intending pilgrims for the 2023 Hajj exercise are on board the first flight which landed safely in Madinah, Saudi Arabia early hours of today.
The batch which consists of 173 male and 217 female pilgrims on board a Flynas airline flight with registration number XY 5678, landed at exactly 9.46am Saudi Arabian time which is equivalent to 7.46am Nigerian time on Thursday.
The immediate past Hon. Commissioner for Home Affairs, Prince Anofiu Olanrewaju Elegushi expressed optimism on the good behavioral conduct of the pilgrims throughout their stay in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
He stated this at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Ikeja, before the airline flight that conveyed the pilgrims departed Nigeria at 12.03 am today.
Elegushi reiterated that the pilgrims have been given adequate enlightenment on all they needed to know about the exercise during the weekend lectures, adding that they are expected to obey all the laws of Saudi Arabia and be good Ambassadors of the State and Nigeria at large.
Speaking on why the inaugural flight came earlier than the June 4 announced during the One-Day Seminar held at De- Blue Roof, Agidingbi, Ikeja, he stated that the development was a plus for the state because her pilgrims would leave for the pilgrimage exercise earlier than as scheduled.
He commended the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) for the regulatory measures it put in place for this year’s operation. He urged NAHCON to try to be more flexible with the State Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Boards in its regulations.
On his part, the Board Chairman, Imam (Engr.) Shakiru Ayinde Gafar appealed to the pilgrims that are yet to be airlifted to exercise patience and show understanding with the Board, saying that every necessary machinery have been put in place for a seamless operation.
He however urged them to realize that their airlifting is dependent on early issuance of visa by the Saudi Arabian Embassy. He gave assurances that every one of them would be airlifted to the Kingdom in order to fulfill their spiritual obligation.
The Board Secretary, Mr. Saheed Onipede expressed his delight at the success of the inaugural flight.
Onipede who is having his first Hajj experience as the Board scribe, said that the logistics put in place for the inaugural flight was perfect and highly encouraging. He expressed his hope that the whole airlifting exercise would be hitch-free and successful.
He expressed his appreciation to Governor Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu and his deputy, Dr. Kadri Obafemi Hamzat for their steadfastness and support for the operation.
He also commended the immediate past Commissioner, Prince Anofiu Olanrewaju Elegushi; S. A on Islamic matters, Alh. Ahmad Abdullahi Jebe; Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, Mrs. Lolade Aina; Chairman and members of the Board; staff and other stakeholders for their sacrifices and commitment to the success of the inaugural flight.
Apart from the officials of Lagos State Government at the airport, the NAHCON team was led by the Lagos Zonal coordinator, Mr. Gafar Odunola Babatunde.