Ambassador Lawal gave the applause when he led a delegation which included the Consular-General and Nigeria’s Ambassador to Sudan, Ambassador Bello Kazaure; the Chairman/CEO National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) Alh. Zikhrullah Kunle Hassan and other top Executives of the agency on a courtesy visit to the Lagos tent in Mina, on Thursday.
The diplomat extended the best wishes of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Bola Ahmed Tinubu to the entire pilgrims from the State. He also said that the delegation paid the visit based on the directive of Mr. President.
He said, “The President requested that the team should visit the pilgrims and we are impressed with their exemplary conduct which was a reflection of the effective and efficient works the Amir-ul-Hajj and other officials of the State government have put in place”.
He urged the pilgrims to pray for the progress, stability, peace, security and well-being of Nigeria.
On his part, the Chairman/CEO of NAHCON, Alh. Zikhrullah Kunle Hassan absolved Lagos State of any blame in respect of the challenges faced by the pilgrims over inadequate allocation of bed spaces and meals in Mina, saying neither NAHCON nor the State officials are to blame.
While noting that Hajj is about challenges and sacrifices, the NAHCON boss however apologized to the pilgrims for all the shortcomings and difficulties they have passed through.
He prayed that Allah would accept their Hajj as act of ibaadah and reward them with Aljanat Fridaus.
On the $700 Basic Travelling Allowance (BTA) given to each of the pilgrims, Hassan explained that it was not peculiar to only Lagos but every Nigerian pilgrim.
He stressed that because of the war going on in Sudan and the demands for increment in air fare by the airlines, NAHCON had to deduct $100 from the initial $800 the pilgrims were expected to collect as BTA.
He affirmed that although Flynas, a Saudi Arabia based airline that flew the 3,662 Lagos pilgrims did not ask for any increment, NAHCON decided to also deduct the $100 from each of its pilgrims for the sake of equity and fairness while the agency on its part also added $250 for every pilgrims across the country.
Speaking glowingly about the patience and perseverance displayed by the pilgrims, the State Amir-ul-Hajj, Prince Anofiu Olanrewaju Elegushi said that they have been so enduring despite the fact that they were not comfortable with the inadequacies in the provision of bed spaces and the kind of meals served by the Saudi caterers engaged by the service providers in whose care the welfare of the pilgrims was placed.
He appealed to NAHCON to prevail on the Saudi Arabian authorities to handover the kitchen to each of the participating States, saying that they are in the best position to provide local delicacies for their pilgrims through reputable caterers during subsequent exercises.