HomeDocumentaryAnalysisNAHCON gives update on airlifting of pilgrims

NAHCON gives update on airlifting of pilgrims

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By Fatima Sanda Usara

The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) is hopeful it will conclude airlift of its 2024 Hajj pilgrims on or before 10th of June 2024. Yet to be airlifted are Sokoto with 568 pilgrims, Katsina with 1,107 pilgrims and Niger with 1,528 as at the time of writing this report totaling 4,025 pilgrims awaiting airlift.

A breakdown shows Max Air has 1,150 pilgrims on ground. The airline has three aircraft with a combined capacity of 1,540 passengers. FlyNas on the other hand positioned three aircraft, each with 432 seats, equaling 1,296 seats. FlyNas is to conclude Sokoto and Niger airlifts. Air Peace operated two aircraft one with 315 capacity and the other with 270 seats. But for a slight delay experienced yesterday with the last batch of Kwara pilgrims, Air Peace would have concluded its operation by now.

Among the successes recorded in the 2024 airlift is the spontaneous movement of pilgrims for take-off after screening. However, few incidents of sleepover in the camps were recorded, one being a Kaduna flight that witnessed less than 24 hours delay. Another was in Lagos and a third in Kwara after their plane experienced a technical hitch. Pilgrims in all cases were supplied with hot meals and mattresses to recline before movement to the airport for take-off.

Another success is the commitment of the airlines by keeping to the contract terms agreed upon before engagement. All carriers positioned the agreed number of aircraft and conveyed the pilgrims as scheduled.

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READ ALSO: Hajj 2024: CSO urges improvement in feeding, other services, lauds NAHCON, States, Airlines for seamless airlift.

Complete production of visas before commencement of the airlift removed pressure from pilgrims’ officials at state and federal levels. This eliminated delays associated with fishing out pilgrims with available visas to include in the manifests. It provided a clear picture of expected number of pilgrims to travel when due. Thanks to Malam Jalal Ahmad Arabi, the NAHCON Chairman’s insistence to maintain an end to visa production. The Chairman’s argument was that the Commission needed a number to work with no matter how few. He allowed visa production to end despite the allure of more numbers of pilgrims pleading to pay N8.3m.

Thus, the accuracy in number of registered pilgrims in turn facilitated real time planning leading to ample utilization of all hotel accommodations in Madinah, curtailing waste due to surplus rooms without arrival of commensurate number of pilgrims; or overcrowding due to inaccurate data.

The afore mentioned achievements resulted in NAHCON attaining 91% movement to Madinah in the first phase of the year’s operation. It is hoped that this percentage will be 100% by the end of airlift exercise.

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Similarly, a deliberate cooperation between NAHCON’s aviation unit with Saudi Arabia’s General Authority for Civil Aviation (GACA) in reviewing flight schedules weekly based on available slots removed previously experienced unstable airlift schedules. To date, among the few flight cancellations is a Maiduguri FlyNas trip that was postponed from 5th to 7th. The current Kwara flight was also shifted from late hours of 6th to 7th due to technical exigencies. All other rescheduled flights were at the behest of the states that appealed for it to allow them mop up before departure.

Timely issuance of Yellow Cards is another factor that facilitated a hitch-free airlift this year. Malam Arabi, in collaboration with the office of the Minister of Health ensured that the cards and vaccines were administered to pilgrims before commencement of the airlift. Flights had in the past been cancelled due to unavailability of Yellow Cards as evidence of vaccination. Yellow Card is mandatory for entry into the Kingdom.

Meanwhile last leg of Kwara pilgrims will be airlifted by Max Air tonight in agreement with Air Peace. The pilgrims have already been screened and awaiting signal to proceed.

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Usara is Assistant Director, Public Affairs, NAHCON

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