Nigeria’s pilgrims have been called upon to pray for their country to surmount the challenges facing the Nation.
President Goodluck Jonathan made this call Saturday at Dutse International Airport, Jigawa State, where he flagged-off the commencement of airlift of the first set of intending Hajj Pilgrims to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for this Year’s Hajj exercise.
He said “I believe all pilgrims are aware of the challenges facing our country. These challenges require not only dedication of the leadership but also prayers from every pilgrim. We should therefore be persistent in our prayers for peace, progress and prosperity of our beloved country.”
The President, who was represented by Vice President Namadi Sambo also reminded the pilgrims of their spiritual obligations while they perform the Hajj pilgrimage and called on them to dedicate themselves to the spiritual revival of their souls so that they could achieve “good life on earth and aspire for eternal bliss in the hereafter.”
While praying for their safe airlift and and successful Hajj pilgrimage he urged them to conduct themselves with decorum while the pilgrimage lasts.
The President also noted the improvement in airlifting of pilgrims to the Holy Land where Nigeria has been able to meet her deadline. “I am glad to note that the days when Nigeria requested for extension of time from Saudi Arabia because of our inability to meet the airlift deadline for the closure of the King Abdulazeez International Airport are gone for good.” He said.
Meanwhile, President Goodluck Jonathan has commended the Nigeria Hajj Commission for their improved performance in been able to surmount the numerous challenges they were confronted with.
“We note the improvement in performance of Hajj operations in Nigeria. I urge the leadership of the Hajj Commission to see this improvement as a motivation to propel it to greater height so that Hajj operations in Nigeria will toe the line of International Best Practice,” he said
He added that their administration has always supported the welfare of all Muslims through the Hajj commission by assisting the pilgrims with consular, medical and exchange support services. “While government will continue to meet these primary and essential needs, it is important that the commission works towards being more self-sustaining and self-financing,” he said
The President has however assured Nigerians that federal government was doing everything possible to contain the spread of the Ebola virus and has promised to continue supporting all the states in the federation. He stated that the federal government has, in addition to the N200million support fund to Lagos state, earmarked the sum of N1.9billion as support for states to contain the spread of the deadly virus, adding that this support has also been extended to some neigbouring countries to contain the spread of the disease.
In his remarks the Sultan of Sokoto and Permanent National Amirul Hajj Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar thanked President Goodluck Jonathan for the efforts of the federal government in containing the spread of the dreaded Ebola virus in the country which he said has made this year’s Hajj possible.
He warned the pilgrims to adhere strictly to the rules and regulations governing the performance of Hajj and to present themselves to all necessary medical tests to be carried out on them.
The Sultan also called for special prayers by the pilgrims to defeat all the evils in the country, while urging all Nigerians to join hands together in bringing to an end the security challenges facing the country.
The Oba of Lagos and this year’s National Amirul Hajj Oba Rilwan Babatunde Osuolale, urged the pilgrims to conduct themselves with decorum and to be honest, and not to engage in any act capable of tarnishing the image of their country.
While calling on the pilgrims to clear their hands off commercial interests and be steadfast in their Hajj obligations he appealed to the Federal Government to increase its funding to the Hajj Commission particularly in the area of security.
In his own remarks, the Chairman of the National Hajj Commission Muhammad Musa Bello stated that the first set of 530 pilgrims from Jigawa state would be airlifted today at the Dutse International airport to mark the commencement of the airlift of pilgrims for this year’s Hajj pilgrimage.
According to the commission’s Chairman, there were twelve designated departure centers in the country including four new centers in Enugu, Bauchi, Kebbi and Dutse where the first set of pilgrims would be airlifted.
He expressed his gratitude to the federal government for the support it was extending to the commission, which, he said, has made it possible for the commission to move to the next higher level each year.
Also in his remarks, the host Governor Sule Lamido of Jigawa state thanked the National Hajj Commission for the choice of his state as the centre to flag-off this year’s Hajj operation. He described his role as supportive while calling for prayers for the nation from the pilgrims.
Various dignitaries graced the occasion amongst which were Niger State Governor Babangida Aliyu, Minister of Transport Senator Idris Umar, The Shehu of Borno and the Emirs of Kano, Hadejia, Suleja, Daura, Kazaure, Gumel, Kaltungo and Maradun.