By Ajape sefiu A.

The first flight conveying Nigerian pilgrims to Saudi Arabia has left for the Hajj 2024 exercise. The FlyNas flight with 422 Kebbi pilgrims and 7 officials took off at 4:54 pm on Wednesday, May 15, after an official flag-off led by Nigeria’s Vice President, Sen. Kashim Shettima.

Vice President, Alhaji Kashim Shettima pledged the Federal Government’s support and assistance for hajj and other legitimate religious journeys to ensure both the temporal and spiritual well-being of Nigerians on Wednesday in Birnin Kebbi, the Kebbi State capital, at the official flag-off of the 2024 Hajj airlifting operations, with the inaugural departure of Nigerian intending pilgrims to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Alhaji Shettima, with other dignitaries including Kebbi State Governor, Alhaji Nasiru Idris, Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Abubakar Saad III, and the Commission’s Chairman/CEO, Mal. Jalal Arabi, presided over the inaugural flight that saw about 422 Kebbi pilgrims and 7 officials on FlyNas flight XY8002 that departed Sir Ahmadu Bello International Airport, Kebbi State, for Prince Mohammed Bin Abdulaziz International Airport, Madinah, Saudi Arabia.

The Vice President lamented that it was a daunting task for the federal government to tame the dangerous slide in the value of the Naira to the dollar, in which the government had to cough out over ninety billion Naira as assistance to cushion the unpleasant effect of the Naira free fall on intending pilgrims.

He stated that because of the importance the government attaches to hajj, it painstakingly took time to appoint competent, dependable, experienced,  and seasoned administrators to run the affairs of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria, NAHCON.

Alhaji Shettima called on the pilgrims to be good ambassadors of the country in the holy land and to pray for peace, harmony, tranquility, development and progress for Nigeria and Nigerians.

Likewise, on Wednesday, MaxAir NGL3019 departed Abuja for Madinah at 20:04 hrs. with 545 Nasarawa pilgrims and 14 officials.

In a related development, Airpeace APK7902 carrying 301 FCT pilgrims and 5 officials departed Abuja for Madinah at 12:10 hrs. today, May 16, 2024, taking the total airlift to 1,567 as of the time of this report.