President Muhammadu Buhari has urged intending pilgrims from Nigeria to pray for sustained peace in the country.
The president made the call Saturday at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport during the iaugural flight of this year’s pilgrimage to Makkah.
The inaugural flight which ferried pilgrims from Kogi state took off at about 3 p.m.
Represented by the Minister of Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Mohammed Bello, Mr Buhari told the pilgrims to “Pray for your family, pray for yourselves, pray for your country and pray for your leaders”.
The president also told the pilgrims to pray fervently for lasting peace in the country.
He admonished them to be good ambassadors of Nigeria and Islamic religion.
He also advised them to undertake their religious duties safely and come back with “Hajj Mabrur”( acceptable Hajj).
Mr Buhari also commended the National Hajj Commission for the way they handled this year’s Hajj operations. He also said the federal government would continue to provide all that is needed to make sure Nigerians perform their Hajj successfully.
Mr Buhari advised pilgrims from the country to take maximum opportunity of the opportunity God has given them to perform the Hajj “in a peaceful and orderly manner”.
The president, who said the relationship between Nigeria and Saudi Arabia will continue to grow advised all pilgrims to “respect all the rules and regulations of Saudi Arabia. You are a small group out of the many that will come from all over the world”.
Speaking earlier, the chairman of NAHCON, Abdullahi Muhammed, said the inaugural flight to be carried out by Max Air will ferry 460 pilgrims to Madinah.
He also told the pilgrims that being the first to depart, they will also be the first to return after the Hajj.
Mr Mohammed appreciated the support given to the commission by the Kogi state Hajj Commission which made the flag off ceremony successful.
He said an advanced team from the commission had traveled to Saudi Arabia four days ago and would be joined by Nigerian ambassador and consul general to receive the Kogi pilgrims.
He called on other states to emulate Kogi by ensuring that their pilgrims are mobilised early so as to have a smooth airlift exercise.
The NAHCON chairman expressed gratitude to President Buhari for officially writing a letter of request to King Salman calling for an intervention that would lessen the burden of Nigerian pilgrims due to the newly introduced biometrics data capture of all pilgrims.
He also thanked the government of Saudi Arabia for granting the request by ensuring more data capture centres were created in almost all the state capitals in the country.
“So far 18,000 pilgrims have been captured out of which 5000 visas have already been processed,” he said.
Mr Mohammed pledged the commitment of NAHCON to ensure that “pilgrims get value for their money“.
He also called on them and officials from the states to always report poor services rendered to them so as to either get partial or full refund.
“I appeal to you to behave yourself in the most decent manner, move in groups and obey your officials,” he said.
Mr Mohammed also said officials “are human and can make mistakes. Take our shortcomings in good faith. Let us work as partners in progress not as a master/boss relationship”.
He also said medical facilities which are free of charge courtesy of the federal government have been provided saying “ whenever you have any medical issue contact the nearest clinic which are often within the vicinity of your accommodation
“There is an emergency line available 24/7 use it in case of any emergency.
“For those of us who are IT literate, there is also a complaint management system provided on our website, please take advantage of it.
“When an officer who received a complaint refused to act, the next officer in line will get and alert and the same process continues up to my desk as CEO.
“Be assured we will do everything humanly possible to make you comfortable,” he said.
Also, the Ambassador of Saudi Arabia to Nigeria Adnan Mahmoud Bostaji said his government considers rendering service to pilgrims as an obligation and a source of honour.
He said there has been remarkable improvements in all Hajj related facilities in the country for the service of pilgrims to ensure they perform their rites “with every ease and comfort”.