The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), has revealed that Nigeria lost 14 pilgrims in Saudi Arabia from the beginning of ongoing 2023 hajj operation to date.
Dr Usman Galadima, Chief of Operations and Head of the NAHCON National Medical Team, made this known during a post-Arafat meeting with stakeholders on Sunday in Makkah, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Galadima explained that seven pilgrims died before Arafat, six died during the five-day Mashair (core Hajj period) and additional one person died after the Arafat.
“We had six reported death at Mashair, four died in Arafat and the other two died in Mina. Already we lost seven pilgrims before Arafat and just now I have just been informed that we lost another pilgrim. This brings the total of deaths recorded to 14.
“The mortality rate is similar to that of 2019,” he said.
He also revealed that the medical team recorded three cases of chickenpox during the core hajj period and the affected pilgrims were immediately moved out of the area as a preventive measure to avoid the spread of the disease.
Galadima also disclosed that the team recorded two deliveries during the period of hajj ritual in Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifah, adding that one of the pregnant women delivered on the road, while the second one was brought to the clinic and delivered safely.
He emphasised the need for a thorough pre-hajj medical screening with the issuance of a certificate of medical fitness.
He also said that elderly pilgrims and those that are very sick should be discouraged from participating in the symbolic devil stoning at Jamrat because of the stress involved.
In his presentation, the NAHCON Head of Aviation, Alhaji Goni Sanda, disclosed that the transport of pilgrims back to Nigeria would begins on Tuesday, July 4.
He said the policy of first in, first out would strictly be applied in the evacuation of the pilgrims back to Nigeria.
He further stated that the Saudi authorities have a policy that in the first two weeks, the air carriers would not operate maximally due to the volume of traffic and the large number of aircraft involved in the evacuation of pilgrims from different countries, as well as the fact that virtually all planes will take off from one Airport, the King Abdulaziz International Airport, Jeddah.
He stated that in the first two weeks of the start of the transportation of pilgrims, Flynas would only utilise four of it six aircraft for the operation, adding that the other two are undergoing some checks and maintenance.
Also, the Commissioner, Operations of NAHCON, Alhaji Abdullahi Hardawa, said the commission had resolved to ensure that pilgrims fully obey its luggage policy during their return journey to Nigeria.
He recalled that in 2022, there was a breach, but pledged that such breaches would not be tolerated this year, so as to have a seamless operation.
He decried the attitude of some pilgrims, particularly the females, who go to the airport with multiple bags all in the name of hand luggage, warning that this time the situation would not be accepted.
He therefore called on officials of state pilgrims boards to inform their pilgrims about the policy to avoid any inconveniences and unnecessary delays at the airport.
“The airline operators have bitterly complained about this untoward behaviour of some pilgrims, which put lives of other passengers in the aircraft at risk. This time it will not be business as usual.
“And for fear of losing some valuables at the airport, the pilgrims should abide by the 32kg luggage policy, or they should avail themselves with the cargo window.”