The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) has denied social media reports that it abandoned about 400 passengers of private tour operators from Kano State who were unable to fly to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to perform pilgrimage.
NAHCON’s Commissioner of Operations, Alhaji Abdullahi Saleh, who addressed journalists in Mina on Friday over the circulated report on the social media, said the commission didn’t leave any pilgrim behind in Nigeria contrary to the impression being created.
Saleh said all 44,459 registered pilgrims through States’ Pilgrims Welfare Boards were airlifted to Saudi Arabia before the airspace was shut on August 4, 2019 by approved airlines.
He said the last batch of pilgrims that came into Saudi Arabia were not even up to 200 in Flynas, an airline with more than 400 capacity.
Saleh said no travel agency had come to NAHCON to launch complaint about its problem in line with the advice given to them by the commission.
He said private tour operators had wider latitude of choice to determine the airlines that would bring their pilgrims, stressing that they depend on scheduled carriers that run weekly frequency.
“NAHCON has advised them to disclose information on the airlines they are using in good time in order to assist them if they have problem. They didn’t do so. They didn’t even come to NAHCON to say this is the airline we want to use.
“Even as I’m talking to you now, no travel agency comes to us to assist them because they have problem.
“What they did was their own plan. And as it is, they came so late that even the one they approached could not help them because airspace of Saudi Arabia had been officially closed on the 4th of August,” he added.
Saleh, who said the pilgrims’ rights would be protected, said the culprits would be brought to book, after investigation, to serve as deterrent.
He said NAHCON would not hesitate to sanction the culprits by withdrawing their licenses and prosecuting them.
He said out of 20,000 slots given to licensed private tour operators, 19,780 registered with them to come to Saudi Arabia for Hajj.