A senior NAHCON official pleading with the abandoned pilgrims at King Abdul Aziz international airport in Jeddah
Photo: Hajj Reporters
About 815 pilgrims to this year’s Hajj pilgrimage who travelled through various private tour operators have been left stranded for days by SkyPower Aviation in Saudi Arabia before they were eventually airlifted to Nigeria.
The pilgrims, who came to perform hajj through different private tour operators said they were left stranded in Makkah for days and then at King Abdulaziz International Airport Jeddah.
They also said they spent 28 days instead of 18 as promised them because the airline failed to airlift them back to Nigeria.
One of the pilgrims, Alhaji Abdulsamad, who paid through Murna travels told HAJJ REPORTERS Thursday at the airport that ” We paid N1.3 million with the promise that we will spend only 18 days, today we have spent 28 days and here we are without knowing our fate.”
He said they were brought to Saudi Arabia by Skypower Aviation using an Air Peace aircraft.
”After going through a lot in Makkah, we were brought to the Airport with a promise that we will be airborne on Wednesday evening. Yet we are still here,” he said.
Another pilgrim, who simply identified herself as Hajiya Ramatu said they were earlier given a boarding pass bearing Skypower Aviation in Makkah.
“They then retrieve it and issued another boarding pass belonging to another airline to us when we arrived at the Airport.
‘We started noticing dishonesty when they asked us to return the boarding pass they gave us in Makkah and later issued a different boarding pass to us.
“The date of departure written on the ticket is on 28th August while the boarding pass was given to us on the 29th of August. Then I knew instantly that we are in for a ride,” she said.
The pilgrim said officials of the airline tried to take them out of the Airport again to a Hotel in Jeddah but many of them refused insisting that they must be transported back home as promised, while others who agreed with them were taken to a hotel in Jeddah.
Diffrent boarding pass issued by skypower airline
Narrating her ordeal, another Pilgrim who declined to be named said she lives in Adamawa state but decided to pay through a private tour operator named portfolio Travels in Kano.
She said their problem started right from Nigeria after they were left for days before they were airlifted to Saudi Arabia.
Two other pilgrims, who spoke along similar lines said they were humiliated even in Makkah because of the failure of their handlers to evacuate them from the hotels they were staying.
They said key facilities such as water and electricity were cut off in their accommodation in Makkah after they overstayed.
They added that service providers booked for only 18 days while they were there for about 28 days.
Operating against NAHCON caution
Investigations by HAJJ REPORTERS shows that the plight of the 275 pilgrims is similar to those of about 540 pilgrims who earlier went through similar ordeals before being airlifted back to Nigeria by Skypower Power airline.
Findings by newspaper reveal that the pilgrims who were expected to travel back home onboard “Jordan Air” but known as “Sky Prime Aviation” in Saudi Arabia in flight numbers 4515, 4521 and 4525 were evacuated from their hotels in Makkah and taken to four various hotels in Jeddah instead of the airport as promised.
While some were lodged in Trident Hotel, others with a higher class of travel package were lodged in Roshan Alazhar and Beyab Alhamra hotels for days.
Luggage belonging to the 540 pilgrims is seen here in the front office of Trident Hotel in Jeddah: Photo Hajj Reporters
Some of them who spoke to us said they paid their fare through Rawdah Travel and Tours Kano.
A document we sighted also indicates that the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), had before the commencement of airlift for this year’s Hajj warned intending pilgrims against using unlicensed tour operators or airlines.
Luggage belonging to abadoned pilgrims at the frontage of trident hotel in Jeddah. Photo: IHR
The commission was said to have directed all licensed tour operators to either use any of the three airlines approved for use during the Hajj this year, which are Max, Medview and Flynas airlines or any other airline that has a regular schedule of flying into or out of Saudi Arabia.
Such airlines include but not limited to Emirates, Ethiopian, Egypt or Turkish Airlines.
”Despite these requirements, some Nigerians who felt they have the requisite funds to charter an aircraft even though such airlines do not run regular schedules between Nigeria and Saudi Arabia chose to ignore the requirement, ” said a source in NAHCON who declined to be named because he hasn’t permission to speak to the media on the matter.
Recall that it was widely reported that nearly 500 Nigerians were stranded in Kano and could not make it to Saudi Arabia for this year’s Hajj because the airline chartered to ferry them could not get the go-ahead of Saudi authorities to arrive and land in any of the two airports in Jeddah and Madinah used for Hajj pilgrims.
Further Investigations shows Skypower airline was supposed to airlifts the abandoned Kano private pilgrims during the Airlift of Pilgrims from Nigeria to Saudi Arabia.
“Technical Problem” cause of delay
The representative of Skypower Express Airways in Jeddah, one Alhaji Abubakar told journalists that they failed to ferry their passengers due to a “Technical problem”.
Although he did not explain in detail, the nature of the technical problem, Alhaji Abubakar told the reporters that the problem has to do with a lack of fuel.
He said they were able to source for the fuel and the pilgrims may be airlifted any moment.
Mr Abubakar could also not respond to our question as to whether other airlines ferrying pilgrims to Nigeria has the same ‘technical problem of fuel scarcity’
The Skypower representative also failed to explain how the pilgrims were given two boarding passes bearing Air Peace and then Swissport.
The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria, NAHCON, has been advised to discountenance…