By JACOB ONJEWU DICKSON
Independent Hajj Reporters (IHR), a civil society organization made up of Nigerian journalists who monitor and report activities in the Hajj and Umrah industry, has saluted what it describes as the “Exemplary Patriotism” and full cooperation shown by airlines selected by the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) for this year’s pilgrimage.
NAHCON had selected seven Airlines including Max Air, Azman, Air Peace, Aero Contractors, Ari Air, Value Jet and Saudi based Flynas for the airlift operations of Hajj 2023.
Payments to these airlines for the airlift exercise was agreed on United States Dollars as is the norm in international travels.
A statement released Saturday by IHR, signed by its National Coordinator, Ibrahim Mohammed said it is aware that based on the agreement reached with the Airlines, NAHCON was expected to pay at least 50% of the total amount due to them ahead of the commencement of the airlift of intending pilgrims.
“We are aware that after receiving all deposits from across the states, FCT and the armed forces, NAHCON had gone ahead to deposit these monies into its accounts at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)
“The normal practice is for the apex bank to provide the dollar equivalent of monies deposited based on the approved official rates for disbursement by NAHCON to meet its obligations. However, we are sad to note that in spite of repeated appeals, the CBN could not provide the needed foreign exchange equivalent not just before the commencement of airlift on May 25, but almost 3 weeks after.
“It is, however, gratifying to note that after receiving assurances of payment whenever the USD is made available, the airlines have gone ahead to not just offer full services, but is so far doing a wonderful job. Over 50,000 pilgrims have so far been airlifted to Saudi Arabia by the airlines who are yet to get the needed funds from Nigerian authorities.
“This is most commendable and patriotic,” the statement said.
IHR also noted that following relentless efforts of various stakeholders and coupled with recent change of leadership at the CBN, the necessary authorisation have been received and NAHCON is set to get the due amounts for disbursements.
“We urge all concerned to ensure everything that is needed to be done ahead of the second leg of the airlift that is expected to begin immediately after the Hajj rites is done” IHR said.