The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria and the four Nigerian Airlines approved for the transportation of pilgrims to the 2023 Hajj have finally signed an agreement.
The commission’s Chairman, Zikrullah Hassan, made this known in a statement by the Deputy Director, Information and Publications, NAHCON, Mousa Ubandawaki, on Tuesday in Abuja.
The four airlines, had earlier on Thursday, declined to sign an agreement with NAHCON due to the ongoing crisis in Sudan.
The airlines are Max Air with 16,326 allocation, Air Peace with 11,348, Azman Air with 8,660 and Aero Contractors with 7,833.
However, only the Saudi Arabian designated airline Flynas that will transport 28,515 intending pilgrims to Saudi Arabia had signed the agreement.
Hassan praised the patriotic zeal of the local airlines for their sacrifices in the face of the challenge posed by the Sudan crisis.
“We are not unmindful of the challenge posed by the closure of the Sudan airspace to your Hajj operation.
“However, I wish to appeal to your conscience and sense of patriotism not to further burden the pilgrims with additional costs or changes,” he said.
The Managing Director of Aero Contractors, Capt. Ado Sanusi, 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 logistic and operational needs. We won’t like anything that will disrupt our operation halfway.”
In the same vein, the Chairman of Air Peace, Allen Onyeama, said their call for the review of the transportation agreement with NAHCON was not to exploit the Sudan crises for business gains or opportunities
“We care for the Nigerian pilgrims, many of whom we know have made personal sacrifices in paying for Hajj.
“We are also mindful of the fact that the pilgrims had already paid before this crisis broke out. We don’t want to deprive them of this opportunity to make the journey to the Holy land.
“We are doing it for national pride.”
The formal signing of the agreement with the four local airlines laid to rest the disagreement between the commission and the approved 2023 Hajj carriers.
It also represents remarkable progress in the march towards the commencement of transportation of prospective pilgrims to Saudi Arabia, which would be inaugurated on May 21 with the Advance Team from the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja. (NAN)