By FLORENCE ONUEGBU
LAGOS- The Lagos State Government says it will refund payments made by prospective pilgrims over inability of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) to secure proposed slots for the 2022 Hajj operations.
The Commissioner for Home Affairs, Prince Anofiu Elegushi, said this on Tuesday during a news conference at the Bagauda Kaltho Press Centre, Alausa, Ikeja.
Elegushi said full refund will be made to those affected by the development and the process would be seamless and quick.
He said the Lagos State Government would publish the names of affected intending pilgrims in a National Newspaper as the first batch for the Year 2023 Hajj operations.
According to him, government will also put on hold sales of forms for the year 2023 Hajj, pending confirmation of the actual number of slots to be given, while giving the published names first offer of refusal.
He said even though 1,562 slots were allocated to Lagos State by NAHCON for this year’s Hajj operations, 1,598 pilgrims, including those from approved private organisations in Lagos, were transported by government.
The commissioner assured all the intending pilgrims of the state government’s support at all times and prayed for the safe return of the pilgrims already transported.
”You will recall that the COVID-19 pandemic did not allow any airlifting of pilgrims since 2020, this gave rise to an increase in the backlog of intending pilgrims since then.
”However, when the Saudi Arabia authorities gave the go-ahead for pilgrims to be airlifted this year 2022, we had over 4,000 intending pilgrims that have registered with the state.
”A total number of 1,562 slots were allocated to Lagos State by the NAHCON and these were used up immediately by the state contingent.
”A further 250 slots were given by NAHCON, based on the expectation of additional 5,000 slots promised by the Saudi Authorities.
”Unfortunately, the Saudi Authorities declined the 5,000 slots while we had gone ahead to allocate the 250 slots awaiting final processing and Visa from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” he said.
Elegushi said that it was however, regrettable to note that the 5,000 slots promised were declined by the Saudi Authorities, thereby placing the state in precarious situation.
He said that the issue affected every nation of the world that had intending pilgrims, but the reactions and the need to make things clear had necessitated the briefing. (NAN)