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FLAG-OFF OF HAJJ AIRLIFT: Vice President Shettima Charges Pilgrims On Global Diplomacy, Positive Nigerian Values

Vice President Kashim Shettima on Wednesday flagged off federal government’s inaugural airlift of Nigerian pilgrims for the 2024 annual Hajj, with a charge to the intending pilgrims to maintain national policies aimed at promoting unity, sustainable development and strategic diplomacy throughout the sacred exercise.

Addressing the gathering of intending pilgrims during the flag-off of the airlift at the Sir Ahmadu Bello International Airport, Birnin Kebbi, the Kebbi State capital, VP Shettima said the Hajj pilgrimage is an opportunity for Nigerian Muslims to uphold the teachings of Prophet Muhammad and project Nigeria’s positive national values on the global stage.

“Our Nigerian pilgrims, as you prepare to depart for the Holy Land, I urge you to embody the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) by exhibiting humility, perseverance, and kindness during this journey,” the VP stated.

The Vice President noted that the pilgrimage’s essence aligns with government policies geared towards fostering peaceful coexistence and social harmony among Nigeria’s diverse populace.

He also urged the intending pilgrims to serve as good ambassadors for Nigeria by diligently observing all Hajj protocols in Saudi Arabia in line with Abuja’s diplomatic efforts.

“I implore you to be good Nigerian ambassadors by observing the rules and regulations of Hajj,” he said.

The Vice President commended government officials and agencies, saying their dedication to ensuring a hitch-free Hajj exercise symbolizes “the Nigerian spirit of resilience and hospitality,” which the President Bola Ahmed Tinubu administration aims to showcase globally.

He also called on the pilgrims to use the sacred journey as a platform to “pray for peace, unity and sustainable development” in Nigeria.

Earlier, Kebbi State Governor, Dr Nasiru Idris, said the state was the first among equals to remit its pilgrims fare for the annual exercise to the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria.

The Governor further disclosed that the state government spent over N953 million on the upgrade of facilities at the Sir Ahmadu Bello International Airport and the Hajj Camp in Kebbi to enable the airlift of pilgrims directly from Kebbi to Saudi Arabia.

“The airlift of Kebbi State pilgrims for last year was carried out in Sokoto due to some very obvious reasons but this administration has been able to overcome such infractions.

“A professional aviation consultant was engaged to holistically undertake a maintenance and upgrade of facilities in our international airport in the total sum of N53 million while infrastructural facilities were provided for the State’s hajj camp in the sum of N900 million,” the Governor disclosed.

On his part, the Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence, Sa’ad Abubakar III, commended the Nigerian government under the leadership of President Tinubu for its efforts toward the success of this year’s Hajj.

“I want to thank the federal government, under the leadership of President Bola Ahmed Tinubum for all efforts put in place to ensure that this hajj takes place. When all hopes were lost, light showed at the end of the tunnel and today we are having this inaugural flight,” he said.

The Sultan, who said the airlift of pilgrims from Kebi was historic, urged the pilgrims to conduct themselves in a good manner while in the holy land.

“You all know the importance of going to the holy land for hajj and I know how disciplined Nigerian pilgrims have always been. I know the pilgrims coming out of Kebbi State will be the best and I want other pilgrims from the remaining states to emulate them,” he added.

The royal father prayed for a successful hajj operation, just as he solicited prayers for leaders at all levels as well as peace and unity in the country.

For his part, Chairman of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), Jalal Arabi, assured the pilgrims that arrangements have been concluded for them to have a rewarding hajj exercise.

“Today is undoubtedly a memorable day in the short life of the 5th Board of NAHCON because we are about to put to bed the many strategies we have conceived for the safe delivery of a well-organized hajj season. I assure you that all the essential services provided for the pilgrims are of high standard under the supervision of a well-motivated and dedicated staff, ” the NAHCON Chairman stated.

Mr Arabi noted that the Commission will deploy strategies that will boost the revenue base of NAHCON to be self-sustaining through identifying and utilizing resources embedded in the hajj ecosystem, with no extra cost to the pilgrims.

Dignitaries at the event included Minister of Aviation and Aerospace, Festus Keyamo; Minister of State for Education, Dr Yusuf Sununu; Deputy Chief of Staff to the President (Office of the Vice President), Senator Ibrahim Hassan Hadejia; Senator Ali Ndume; former Governor of Kebbi State, Usman Dakingari; members of the National Assembly from Kebbi State; Speaker of the Kebbi State House of Assembly,  Hon Muhammad Usman Ankwai, and his Sokoto State counterpart, Hon Tukur Bala Bodinga, among others.

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