The Adamawa State government has condemned the attitude of some of the state’s intending pilgrims for holding an aircraft hostage at the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport.
The pilgrims reportedly became frustrated, Saturday, when instead of ferrying them to Saudi Arabia, the plane took them to Kano.
The pilgrims, perhaps afraid they could be abandoned in Kano, held the plane hostage.
However, the Adamawa State Acting Governor, in a statement by his spokesperson, Babayola Toungo, on Sunday said much as the government sympathises with the plight of the pilgrims, it finds it reprehensible for those embarking on a spiritual journey “to behave in a manner comparable to children”.
The statement added that the pilgrims who held the plane hostage in Kano were earlier briefed on the travel arrangement and the efforts the government is making in collaboration with the National Hajj Commission, NAHCON, to ensure that no pilgrim from Adamawa State is left behind.
It said those taken to Kano were informed that they would be airlifted from the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport to Saudi Arabia via a different aircraft from the one that ferried them from Yola to Kano.
It also said the plane that took them to Kano was to come back to Yola and pick about five hundred and eighty passengers to Jeddah.
“This was explained to them in no uncertain words,” the statement said.
Giving reasons for the arrangement, the Adamawa Government said the Yola International Airport has no landing capability for a plane the size of the Boeing 747 in the night and therefore the need for the plane that went to Kano to be back in the day.
“By holding the aircraft hostage in Kano, the pilgrims have unwittingly distorted a carefully reworked schedule that shall ensure that all of them are airlifted before the closure of Saudi airspace,” the government said.
The government said though it is still working round the clock to make sure all the intending pilgrims are airlifted, it however expressed “its disappointment in the strongest terms possible of the behaviour of our pilgrims.
“Pilgrimage is supposed to be a spiritual journey and one is expected to be spiritually ready for such a trip.
“A pilgrim is supposed to be an epitome of piety, comportment and orderliness but not certainly what was displayed in Kano. As ambassadors of Adamawa State, all are expected to be embodiment of decency and decorum,” it said.
Nyako sides with pilgrims
In a swift reaction to the position expressed by the acting governor, former Governor Murtala Nyako supported the pilgrims’ action.
In a release by his spokesperson, Ahmad Sajoh, Sunday, Mr. Nyako said it was unfortunate that pilgrims from the state were ferried to Kano instead of Saudi Arabia.
He also accused the acting governor for choosing to play to the gallery by condemning the action of the frustrated pilgrims.
“The behaviours of the pilgrims may be unacceptable but almost everyone in their circumstances would have behaved in the same manner,” Mr, Nyako said.
He also said the pilgrims who were almost abandoned by their government in Yola cannot also understand why they will be flown to Kano instead of Jeddah.
” Even while in Yola these pilgrims had difficulties surviving if not for the support of relations resident in the city. What will happen to them while in Kano? This was at the root of their concerns which they were sure will not be addressed by their politically obsessed regime,” he said.
The former governor accused the acting governor of paying more attention to politics than governance and welfare of the citizens.
He said for over a decade, pilgrims from Adamawa and Taraba states have been ferried to Saudi Arabia in a seemless manner.
“It is only this year when Adamawa state governance is fired by just the ambition of an individual rather than the collective interest of the people of the state that such a situation is being experienced.
“For the first time in the history of the state that even the annual flag off ceremony was not undertaken due to over emphasis on political matters.
“Let the world know that it is the excessive focus of the current regime on politics and the vindictive changes which include last minute change of leadership at the Pilgrims Welfare Board that created the hardships experienced by Adamawa pilgrims including the Kano debacle,” Mr. Nyako said.
Mr. Nyako also stated that the pilgrims had complained about the shoddy arrangements at different times but they were ignored.
“This government is too preoccupied with politics and political campaigns to show concern for anyone or anything that concerns the interest or welfare of the people.
“Worst still their spokespersons often use very uncomplimentary language when addressing others without recourse to decorum or self respect.
“In the case of the pilgrims and their conduct in Kano, it was borne out of total lack of confidence in the capacity of the present government in Yola to either protect their interest or even advance it.
“It is therefore like adding salt to injury for anyone to express anger rather sympathy for their plight,” Mr. Nyako said.