By: Sunday Oyewole
Vice President Namadi Sambo on Saturday in Maiduguri, Borno State flagged off the inaugural flight of 2013 Hajj operations.
The event which held at the Maiduguri International Airport had over 520 Borno State pilgrims on board the Max Air Boeing 747 Aircraft.
The Vice President who stood in for President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan stated that the choice of Maiduguri was a signal that peace had finally returned to Borno State, emphasizing that the administration was doing everything possible to ensure the protection of lives and property of the citizenry.
“The choice to hold the Hajj 2013 inaugural flight in Maiduguri is indications of Government’s efforts at ensuring the protection of lives and property of the Nigerian citizenry is sacrosanct. It is also to send signals that peace has finally returned to Maiduguri and its environs, “he stated.
Vice President Sambo extended President Jonathan’s felicitations to Nigerian pilgrims and officials, imploring them to be well behaved and good ambassadors of the country, while also calling on them to offer special prayers for the country.
He said “this administration has always been supporting the welfare of the Muslims. In that regard, the administration has assisted Nigerian pilgrims through the provision of Consular, Medical and exchange support services through the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria.
“Let me enjoin all pilgrims to dedicate themselves to spiritual revival of their souls so that they can achieve good life on earth and aspire for an eternal bliss in the hereafter.”
Sambo particularly charged the airlines including officials to ensure strict compliance with rules and regulations, specifically regarding female Muaharams (Male guide), warning that those that flaunt the directive would be appropriately sanctioned.
Vice President Sambo, commended the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) and state counterparts for working tirelessly to ensure hitch free Hajj operations, and also appreciated the Sultan of Sokoto and the permanent National Amirul Hajj, Sa’ad Abubakar III, for his invaluable contributions to the success of hajj operations.
He used the opportunity to express Nigeria’s appreciation to Saudi Arabia authorities for their continued support and the warm reception accorded him and his entourage during the Lesser Hajj (Umrah) earlier in the year.
In his remarks the Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima, said the event was not only unique and important but was the first in recent times in the state, noting that it was a positive development indicative of return of peace in the State.
He expressed appreciation to the Federal Government for holding the event in the State, saying it was part of confidence building. He prayed Almighty Allah to grant the pilgrims Hajj Mabrur, stressing that the state would continue to provide comfort to pilgrims.
In the same vein the Governor of Yobe State, Ibrahim Geidam said the occasion underscored the significance of cooperation of the three tiers of government for smooth hajj exercise. He charged the pilgrims to abide by Saudi Arabia rules and regulations.
The Sultan of Sokoto and the permanent National Amirul Hajj, Alhaji Saad Anubakar III, on his part said the presence of the Vice President was noteworthy. He expressed gratitude to the Federal Government for given concessions to both pilgrims and airlines in terms of currency exchange and other airport charges.
He called on pilgrims to shun all vices in the Holy Land, while also tasking security agencies to be vigilant and ensure no pilgrim carries prohibited materials. He appealed to the air carriers to strictly follow laid down flight schedules.
The Chairman of NAHCON, Muhammad Musa Bello, represented by the Commissioner Operations, Alhaji Abdullahi Mukhtar, said apart from the inaugural flight in Maiduguri, other centers in Lagos, Katsina, Sokoto and Ilorin would also commence on the same day.
He stated that 50 per cent of the flights would be direct to Prince Muhammad Bn Abdulaziz International Airport, Madina, adding that the 76,000 pilgrims allocated to Nigeria would be airlifted to Saudi Arabia in 152 flights.
The permanent National Amirul Hajj the Sultan of Sokoto had chosen the Shehu of Borno, Abubakar Garbai El-Kanemi to lead the 2013 Federal Government Hajj delegation as the Amirul-Hajj.
Highlights of the event were inspection of the aircraft by the Vice President, readings from the Holy Quran and also sermon to the pilgrims by Sheikh Dahiru Usman Bauchi.
In a related development Vice President Sambo during his visit to Maiduguri, commissioned the ultra modern Borno State Pilgrims Welfare Board, built at the cost of N148 million.
Present at the event were Deputy Governors of Borno and Yobe States, the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Bukar Goni Aji, Deputy Chief of Staff to the President, Mohammed Kachalla Abubakar, federal and state legislatures, top federal and state government officials as well as several Royal Fathers and Muslim clergy.