No fewer than 238 intending pilgrims in Edo would not make the journey to Saudi Arabia for the 2022 Hajj due to backlog from 2020 to 2023.
Ibrahim Oyarekhua, the Chairman, Edo Muslims Pilgrim Welfare Board, told newsmen on Thursday in Benin that the backlog was due to the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic that stalled Hajj operations for two consecutive years.
According to him, out of the 400 Muslims who showed interest, only 162 slots were available to the state.
The chairman, however, announced that the 162 cleared intending pilgrims would leave Nigeria on Saturday through Lagos to join other Nigerian pilgrims, who were already at the holy land.
“All arrangements have been concluded. Everything is ready; we have distributed sensitive materials – passports and other materials needed for the journey – to them.
“By tomorrow, they will travel to Lagos and undergo COVID-19 test as required by Saudi authority before they leave the country on Saturday”
“We have 400 intending pilgrims who made payment, but because of the backlog of 2020, 2021, and this 2022 due to COVID-19 pandemic, only 162 will be airlifted.
“The backlog has raised the number of intending pilgrims in the state,” he said.
Mr Oyarekhua explained that the board had to apply first paid, first served to select the intending pilgrims.
He asserted that a proper arrangement in terms of hotel accommodation and catering services, among others, had also been made for the pilgrims.
“The Acting governor of Edo, Chief Philip Shaibu, was at the camp yesterday (Wednesday) to address the (intending) pilgrims and admonish them to be of good behaviour while carrying out their activities in the holy land.
“I also join the acting governor to advise the pilgrims to be good ambassadors of the state and Nigeria by adhering to the rules and regulation of the pilgrimage.
“I will urge them to pray for Nigeria and Edo state so that we can overcome challenges confronting us, especially insecurity among others.
“This journey is a spiritual assignment and they have to commit themselves to the Almighty,” said the chairman.