The 2017 annual hajj exercise to Saudi Arabia is scheduled to commence on August 4 , 2017 at the Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA), Lagos with a total number of 6,047 pilgrims to be airlifted in Lagos Zone alone.
This is as the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) assured that all facilities to make the exercise a hitch-free have been put in place by the government.
Also, the Lagos State Government revealed that 18 of the intending pilgrims failed medical and pregnancy tests, but regretted that some of them later aborted the pregnancies in order to participate in the 2017 annual hajj exercise to Mecca.
Imam Faud Adeyemi, the Commissioner, South West of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) in his remarks, disclosed that two airlines; Med-View from Nigeria and Fliners from Saudi Arabia would airlift the pilgrims out of Lagos Zone to Mecca, Saudi Arabia.
The Lagos Zone pilgrims comprises of Lagos, Oyo, Osun, Ogun, Edo States and Armed Forces.
Adeyemi gave the breakdown of the pilgrims as Lagos; 2316, Edo; 294, Oyo; 1100, Ogun; 1000; Osun; 962 and Armed Forces with375 pilgrims for the exercise.
He explained that majority of the pilgrims would be airlifted by Med-View Airline while the Saudi Arabian air carrier would airlift pilgrims from Ogun and Armed Forces.
He declared that Med-View Airline would commence the airlifting of the pilgrims on August 4 while the Saudi Arabian air carrier would commence the airlifting of its pilgrims on August 6 at the same airport.
He, however, noted that there is serious security challenge in the country and called on security operatives that would be deployed for the exercise to enhance security at the airport environments and assured that NAHCON would make the exercise enjoyable to all pilgrims.
He said: “There is security challenge in the country generally as we speak now. Even Lagos is not an exception. For instance, we have issue of Boko Haram in some parts of the North and issue of kidnapping, which is fast growing in Lagos.
“All these only go to tell us that security and surveillance at the airport should be enhanced. The security operatives for the exercise must do a thorough job to ensure that everybody that comes into the hajj and cargo area is well-frisked to prevent breakdown of security at the airport. So, all hands must be on deck to ensure that the exercise is hitch-free.”
Also, the representative of the Managing Director of FAAN, Engr. Saleh Dunoma at the meeting, Mr. Asizehi Musa, Terminal Manager, Hajj and Cargo, reiterated the readiness of the agency towards the exercise.
Musa explained that FAAN had activated all the facilities for the smooth running of the exercise, stressing that this would further improve quality service delivery for the pilgrims.
He further implored all security agencies to synergise and support Aviation Security (AVSEC) of FAAN in the discharge of their duties, adding that they should ensure all prohibited items are not smuggled to Saudi Arabia.
He added: “On our part, we are ready for the hajj exercise. We are presently putting finishing touches to our facilities that would be used for the exercise and we want to assure all and sundry that we will improve on the 2016 exercise where we were rated as number one in the country.”
Besides, the Commissioner for Home Affairs, Lagos State, Alhaji Abdulateef Hakeem said that the state had conducted medial screening for all intending pilgrims.
According to him, 18 of the intending pilgrims were barred from travelling based on health issue and pregnancy tests conducted on them.
He, however, regretted that some of those of the females who tested positive to pregnancy tests, later aborted the pregnancies in order to embark on the hajj exercise, stressing that annual hajj exercise was not a do or die.
“It is unfortunate that some of the intending pilgrims who earlier tested positive for pregnancy, later came back during the second medical check and tested negative to the same pregnancy test.