The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) says it has signed an agreement with four Nigerian airlines approved for the transportation of pilgrims to Saudi Arabia.
Zikrullah Hassan, chairman of NAHCON, made the disclosure on Tuesday in Abuja, according to a statement by Mousa Ubandawaki, the commission’s deputy director, information and publications.
Last week, the four airlines had declined to sign the agreement to transport prospective pilgrims due to the closure of the Sudan airspace over the ongoing crisis — a route for the airlines.
Hassan had said the airlines are Max Air (16,326 allocation), Air Peace (11,348), Azman Air (8,660) and Aero Contractors (7,833), adding that only Flynas, the Saudi Arabian designated airline, signed the agreement to transport 28,515 intending pilgrims to Saudi Arabia.
Speaking on the new development, Hassan complimented the local airlines’ patriotic fervour and their sacrifices in the face of the challenges posed by the Sudan crisis.
“We are not unmindful of the challenge posed by the closure of the Sudan airspace to your Hajj operation,” he said.
“However, I wish to appeal to your conscience and sense of patriotism not to further burden the pilgrims with additional costs or changes.”
On his part, Ado Sanusi, managing director of Aero Contractors, said the airlines were mindful of the plight of pilgrims who had earlier paid their Hajj fare before the crisis broke out.
“But we are constrained to take that decision because of logistical and operational needs. We would not like anything that will disrupt our operation halfway,” he said.
In the same vein, Allen Onyema, the chairman of Air Peace, said their call for the review of the transportation agreement with NAHCON was not to exploit the Sudan crisis for business gains or opportunities.
“We care for the Nigerian pilgrims, many of whom we know to have made personal sacrifices in paying for Hajj,” he said.
“We are also mindful of the fact that the pilgrims had already paid before this crisis broke out.
“We do not want to deprive them of this opportunity to make the journey to the holy land. We are doing it for national pride.”