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Saturday, June 22, 2024

Over 1,200 Lagos pilgrims arrive Saudi for Hajj rites

By Monsurudeen Olowoopejo

No fewer than 1,278 Lagos pilgrims have arrived Madinah in Saudi Arabia to join other Muslims globally participating in the 2024 holy pilgrimage exercise.

The arrival of the third batch of 428 pilgrims at the King Abdulaziz International Airport, Madinah at 9.46am (Saudi Arabian time) increased the number from 850 which comprises of the first and second batches to 1,278 pilgrims from the state that have arrived the country for the rites.

On board the Flynas airline flight number XY 8060 and registration number PK-LEI which departed the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Ikeja, Lagos on Thursday were 205 males and 223 females respectively.

The number was confirmed by the Lagos State Government through its Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Board in a statement released and made available to The Guild on Thursday by its spokesperson, Taofeek Lawal.

The Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ibrahim Layode, who led the Board Secretary, Saheed Onipede and other officials to bid the pilgrims farewell, disclosed that each pilgrims would receive 400 US dollars as Basic Travelling Allowance (BTA). The announcement sparked uproar and was vehemently protested by the pilgrims who described the new development as unfair and unacceptable, stressing that since some of them had already collected $500 cash before departure, theirs should not be different.

Reacting to the protest, Layode appealed for patience, explaining that the deduction was not the decision of Lagos State but that of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) and Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

He added that the reason for the deduction cannot be unconnected with the unstable forex exchange rates.

The Amir-ul-Hajj who affirmed that the BTA is their right and legitimate earning, urged them to remain calm and collect the $400 given to them at the moment while awaiting the resolution by both NAHCON and CBN on the latest development. He assured them that if the two Federal Government agencies resolved to return the balance of $100, the state government would not hesitate to refund them accordingly.

Layode assured the pilgrims that the promises made by Governor Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu during the One-Day Seminar to pay for their sacrificial rams, Ihram clothes and ziyyarah (visitation) to historical sites both in Makkah and Madinah is still intact and shall be fulfilled.

He later distributed the $400 cash to each of the pilgrim before boarding their flight enroute Madinah. He also admonished them to be cautious of their conduct whilst in the holy land and avoid anything that could bring the state and county at large to disrepute.

Recall that airlifting of the state’s pilgrims commenced on Friday, May 17, 2024, followed by the second batch on Saturday, May 18. There was a brief break to give room for other states from the South to airlift their pilgrims. The resumption today, of airlifting with the 3rd batch would run back to back until the last batch is airlifted on Friday, May 24, 2024.

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