By Bukola Hameed
The Lagos State Government has commenced the airlifting of intending pilgrims for the 2023 Hajj with the first batch of participants landing safely in Madinah, Saudi Arabia in the early hours of Thursday.
In his address before the departure of the first batch onboard a Flynas Airline flight at 12.03 am today from the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Ikeja, the immediate past Commissioner for Home Affairs, Prince Anofiu Olanrewaju Elegushi expressed the need for all the intending pilgrims to be of good conduct throughout their stay in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Elegushi reiterated that the pilgrims have been given adequate enlightenment on all that is expected of them as Pilgrims in the Holy land, adding that they are to obey all the laws of Saudi Arabia and be good Ambassadors of Lagos State and Nigeria at large.
Speaking on why the inaugural flight came earlier than the June 4 previously 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 the pilgrims would leave for the pilgrimage exercise earlier than scheduled.
He commended the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) for the regulatory measures put in place for this year’s operation, urging 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 intending pilgrims that are yet to be airlifted to be patient and show understanding with the Board, saying that every necessary machinery has been put in place for a seamless operation.
He, however, urged them to realise that their airlifting depends on the Saudi Arabian Embassy’s early issuance of visas. He also gave assurance that every one of them would be airlifted to the Kingdom in time to fulfil 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 were perfect and highly encouraging. He expressed the hope that the whole airlifting exercise would be hitch-free and successful.
Onipede also 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 commended the immediate past Commissioner, Prince Anofiu Olanrewaju Elegushi; the Special Adviser on Islamic Matters, Alhaji Ahmad Abdullahi Jebe; the 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 the Lagos State Government, the NAHCON team led by its Lagos Zonal Coordinator, Mr. Gafar Odunola Babatunde was also at the airport for the departure of the intending pilgrims.
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