The number of Nigerian pilgrims who have died at the on going Hajj has risen to seven.
Chairman of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria, (NAHCON), Abdullahi Mohammed, disclosed in an interview with newsmen at Mount Arafat, Saudi Arabia yesterday.
Mohammed had earlier, on Tuesday, at the pre-Arafat meeting with Hajj stakeholders announced the death of five Nigerian pilgrims.
Although the identities of the dead pilgrims were not disclosed, the chairman said the pilgrims were from Kwara, Kogi, Katsina and Kaduna states and had died due to natural illness.
“We have lost seven pilgrims due to natural illness. Male and female, particularly from Kwara, Kogi, Katsina, Kaduna. No single accident recorded this year. All pilgrims were evacuated in good time.
“We will have to say that, so far so good; even the mortality recorded this year is the lowest in the last 10 to 15 years. We pray that will be the end of any mortality that we are going to record, ” he noted.
Mohammad expressed optimism that the movement to Mustalifah, back to the pilgrims’ tents and the observation of stoning of the Jamarat will also be well coordinated, peaceful and that the pilgrims will finish their hajj rites safely.
“Importantly, the commission has introduced an emergency call centre. We have officers who man that call centre 24 hours. So, any pilgrim, under any distress situation, should call 90008251, 920008251,” he said.
He added that the commission has an effective and well-coordinated medical team with ambulances stationed in various medical camps to attend to emergency needs of pilgrims.
Mohammed said the commission is also coordinating well with state officials to attend to the needs of the pilgrims and expressed satisfaction over hitch-free movement of pilgrims from Makkah to Muna and to Arafat.
Climbing Mount Arafat is a fundamental aspect of the hajj rites.
“Anybody who knows what hajj used to be in the past, for you to move from Makkah to Muna, minimum you need is about eight hours because of the traffic and the confusion. For you to move from Muna to Arafat, you need nothing less than four to five hours because of the congestion and the confusion. But now, it takes only 10 to 15 minutes, maximum of 20 minutes, you arrive at your destination.
“The Saudi system is working perfectly. But, just as any other human endeavour, there is always room for improvement. We hope the authorities, despite the successes recorded will try to meet up, especially the turnaround time of the vehicles,” he added.
The NAHCON boss said return of pilgrims to Nigeria will commence on September 7, and stressed that the commission will maintain the ‘first in first out policy,’ except for those under emergency.
Saudi Arabia receives over two million pilgrims from more than 180 countries for the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, which is a religious duty for all capable adult Muslims that must be carried out at least once in a lifetime.
Nigeria recorded it worst casualty in 2015 when it lost no fewer than 173 during the deadly stampede in Saudi Arabia. Sokoto topped the list of states with the highest casualties from the West African country, with a majority being women and girls.
At least 900 pilgrims were killed during a stampede in Muna near the holy city of Mecca September 24, the first day of Eid al-Adha, or the Feast of the Sacrifice, which marks the end of hajj.
The disaster inflamed tensions between Saudi Arabia’s Sunni kingdom regional rival Iran’s Shiite leadership. Iran lost the largest number of pilgrims in the stampede, with 464 Iranians confirmed dead.