Lagos pilgrims, NAHCON officials clash in Saudi over departure

Lagos pilgrims pray for Akinwunmi Ambode in Mecca Saudi Arabia

Some Lagos State pilgrims who participated in the just concluded Hajj in Saudi Arabia clashed with officials of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) at the King Abdulaziz International Airport, Jeddah on Tuesday evening, has learnt.

One of the pilgrims who spoke on condition of anonymity said the clash was caused by delay in airlifting pilgrims back home.

“Trouble started around 7 pm (Saudi time) when the Lagos pilgrims noticed that the Medview flight which they thought would take them home was actually meant for pilgrims from a northern state.

“The Lagos pilgrims accosted NAHCON officials who could not give them satisfactory answers and the situation degenerated into a shouting match. It took the intervention of Saudi policemen to restore order,” the pilgrim told this online newspaper.

Some of the pilgrims complained that they no longer had access to Wi-Fi and other means of communication as they had checked out of their accommodation in Saudi.

So far, four batches of Lagos pilgrims have been transported home, leaving three batches in the Holy Land.

Those that could not leave on Tuesday were taken to a hotel in anticipation that another Medview flight would bring them home on Wednesday.

NAHCON chairman, Abdullahi Mohammed, had in August called for patience and understanding from pilgrims over the return journey home.

Mohammed said airlift to Nigeria has more challenges than the outbound journey.

He pointed out that while 15 departure centres were used in Nigeria to ferry pilgrims into two airports in Jeddah and Medina in Saudi Arabia, only the Jeddah airport is now being used for return journeys.

“Some of the luxuries enjoyed inbound cannot, therefore, be expected, besides, Nigeria will alongside other countries of the world use the same airport,” he said.

The NAHCON boss also said many pilgrims deplete their Basic Travel Allowance (BTA), making them request for early airlift back home.