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Global - August 2, 2022

Hajj 2022: Nigerian pilgrims protest in Jeddah over delay in return airlift

 

 

Pilgrims from Ebonyi, Rivers and Lagos states that performed the 2022 Hajj have staged a protest at King Abdulaziz International airport Jeddah over what they described as delay in airlifting them back to Nigeria by Azman Airline.

 

Hajj Reporters gathered that some pilgrims from Ebonyi, Rivers, Enugu and about 80 pilgrims from Kano State had concluded their screening processes and ready for take off, but they were nit called to board 24 hours after. They therefore, resorted to protest their predicaments.

 

A pilgrim, who was at the airport, narrated on condition of anonymity that the protest started when an official of the National Hajj Commission (NAHCON), announced that the Azman aircraft that was supposed to ferry them back could not take off due to lack of fuel.

 

His announcement, it was gathered, was greeted by harsh comments from the affected passengers, leading to the protest.

 

According to the pilgrim, a female NAHCON official was even beaten by the irate pilgrims after she attempted to wade into the matter, a good samaritan came to her rescue.

 

“After the official led us to a combined Zuhr and Asr prayers, he stood up and announced in Yoruba language that they had received information from the management of Azman that the flight could not take off due to lack of fuel.

 

“This announcement sparked bad reactions from the affected pilgrims, a situation that culminated into protest. When a female NAHCON official tried to wade into the matter, they even started beating her before she was saved by some people around”.

 

“The aggrieved pilgrims were saying that the official, who led them in the prayer, should not have spoken on behalf of Azman. They said it was the responsibility of management of Azman to speak to them after abandoning them at the airport for over 24 hours,” he said

 

He added that the protest drew the attention of the Saudi airport officials, who called some representatives of the aggrieved pilgrims to hear their grievances and later resolved the matter. The pilgrim said the aggrieved pilgrims later understood that the aircraft did not even come to the airport.

 

In another video sent to HAJJ REPORTERS, pilgrims were seen resisting an attempt by Saudi policemen to arrest one of the protesters and insist that “they will not allow the authorities to arrest any of them for expressing their frustration after spending over 24 hours at the airport.

 

Findings by HAJJ REPORTERS has indicated that there may be more troubles ahead for the embattled Azman Airline.

The government of Kano state had prior to the commencement of Airlift for this year’s Hajj from Nigeria protested the choice of Azman to transport the state’s pilgrims.

 

The government, through the executive Secretary of the state pilgrims welfare board, Alh Abbah Muhammad Dambatta said the Kano based airline lacks the capacity to diligently carry out a successful airlift operations.

 

However, NAHCON insisted that the allocation of Kano Pilgrims to Azman was irreversible saying such action may gave room for other states to follow suit.

 

Some of the officials of the commission said that the airline was chosen by Saudi authorities for the 2022 hajj exercise.

 

At the end of the outbound trip, about 700 pilgrims from Kano state were left behind.

 

Our findings also showed that the only Airbus A330 being used by Azman may not be able to evacuate 32kg pilgrims’ luggage along with each batch of pilgrims as obtained with other airlines.

 

A highly placed source told us that as a result of this problem, many pilgrims transported by Azman may experience prolonged delay before getting their luggage.

However,  in his reaction the AZMAN AGM in charge of Hajj and Umrah Alh Nura told Hajj Reporters that the delay was caused by the scarcity of aviation fuel in Nigeria.

“it was due to fuel shortage in Nigeria  we couldn’t get fuel on time, he said.

 

 

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