The inaugural flight of Nigerian pilgrims for the 2023 Hajj exercise has departed the country for Saudi Arabia.
Over 500 pilgrims from Nasarawa State on Thursday departed the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
Speaking at the inaugural ceremony before the pilgrims departed, the Chairman of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), Zikrullah Hassan, said the commission has addressed the challenges posed to the 2023 Hajj by the closure of the Sudanese Airspace.
Mr Hassan said the federal government has addressed the additional cost to airline fares due to the closure of Sudan airspace by waiving airline charges.
â€œDespite the unprecedented challenge caused by the closure of the Sudan airspace, hence forcing a re-route from Nigeria to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, we give gratitude to the Almighty for leading us to a smooth resolution of the quagmire.
â€œWe appreciate the federal government for waiving numerous aviation charges, the airlines for their sacrifices, the Statesâ€™ Pilgrims Welfare Boards and our Pilgrims who all cooperated to arrive at an amicable solution to the seeming bottleneck,â€ he said.
READ ALSO:Â Ganduje alleges fraud in Hajj operation, demands investigation Mr Hassan also explained that getting hotels in Mecca has been a major challenge due to the ongoing â€œfuturistic developmentâ€ that has led to the demolition of several hotels. He, however, assured the pilgrims that the commission has secured accommodation for them.
Speaking on preparations for the 2023 Hajj, President Muhammadu Buhari, who was represented at the event by the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Zubairu Dada, assured the commission and the pilgrims of the commitment of the federal government to a successful Hajj.
He urged the commission to â€œassist (pilgrims) as much as possible to enable them to discharge their religious obligations that they are there for. Some of them have never travelled outside of their communities, your role means that the entire lives of these human beings have been entrusted into your handsâ€.
The advance team of NAHCON departed on Sunday to prepare to welcome the 96,000 pilgrims from Nigeria.
Saudi airports opened for the first flight carrying 2023 Hajj pilgrims on Sunday 21 May and will close for arrivals of Hajj flights on Thursday 22 June.