By Isyaku Manesseh
Following the inability of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) to secure proposed slots for Nigerian intending pilgrims to this year’s Hajj, Lagos State Government has promised to refund funds to those affected by the development.
The Lagos State Government promised to make the full refund process seamless and quickly available for those intending pilgrims who wish to seek a refund.
Lagos State Commissioner for Home Affairs, Prince Anofi Elegushi announced on Tuesday while addressing journalists during a press conference at the Bagauda Kaltho Press Centre, Alausa in Ikeja.
Elegushi said Lagos State Government will publish the names of affected intending pilgrims in a National Newspaper as the first batch for the Year 2023 Hajj operations, adding that government will also put on hold sales of forms for the year 2023 Hajj pending confirmation of the actual number of slots to be given while giving the published names first offer of refusal.
He said that even though 1,562 slots were allocated to Lagos State by the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria for this year’s Hajj operations, a total number of 1,598 pilgrims, including those from approved private organisations in Lagos were airlifted by the State Government.
The Commissioner assured all the intending pilgrims of the state government’s support at all times and prayed for the safe return of the pilgrims already airlifted.
He said: “You will recall that the COVID-19 pandemic did not allow any airlifting of pilgrims since 2020, this gave rise to an increase in the backlog of intending pilgrims since then. However, when the Saudi Arabia authorities gave the go-ahead for pilgrims to be airlifted this year 2022, we had over 4000 intending pilgrims that have registered with the State.
“A total number of 1562 slots were allocated to Lagos State by the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) and these were used up immediately by the State contingent. A further 250 slots were given by NAHCON based on the expectation of additional 5,000 slots promised by the Saudi Authorities, unfortunately, the Saudi Authorities declined the 5,000 slots while we had gone ahead to allocate the 250 slots awaiting final processing and Visa from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
“It is however regrettable to note that the 5,000 slots promised were declined by the Saudi Authorities thereby placing us in this precarious situation in which we find ourselves in Lagos State. We are aware that this matter affects every nation of the world that has intending pilgrims but the reactions and the need to make things clear have necessitated this address.”
It would be recalled that since 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic had hindered the airlifting of pilgrims, leading to the backlog of about 4,000 intending pilgrims from Lagos State since then.