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By NBF News
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The Head of Media of the National Hajj Commission (NAHCON), Mallam Uba Mana, has said Nigerian pilgrims waiting to be airlifted back to Nigeria have nothing to fear, since the outbound flight was on course. He made this known in Jeddah yesterday while speaking with reporters covering the 2011 hajj exercise.

Mallam Mana also said the deadline given by the Saudi authority within which to complete the airlift back to Nigeria would be met. According to him, as at Sunday, November 21, 2011, of the 89, 000 Nigerian pilgrims, about 55, 000 had so far been airlifted, adding that the remaining pilgrims would be airlifted back to Nigeria, within the stipulated time.

'It is unfortunate that our colleagues like blowing issues out of proportion sometimes.

How can you say Nigerian pilgrims are stranded when none of them has stayed in the Jeddah airport beyond the time within which they are required to be airlifted back home? How can you talk of people being stranded when all the air carriers are up and doing, working round the clock to ensure they meet the deadline.'

'No businessman will want to lose. Once they fail to meet the deadline, the Saudi authority will take their money from source, and NAHCON too will do the same to air carriers, and that will be a loss to the carriers. I am not sure the carriers will be willing to operate at a loss.

'To tell you that they are unwilling to operate at a loss, Kabo Air, for instance, which initially said it was going to conclude its airlift by December 11, 2011, which is within the deadline given to us by the Saudi authority has by its latest schedule indicated that it will be rounding off its schedule by December 3, 2011, which is eight clear days from initial round off date. This is a clear sign of seriousness and re- doubling of effort.

'So I want to assure our families back home that we will not leave any of their loved ones behind and they will be airlifted on schedule. So there is no cause for alarm. 'It is natural for people to be anxious to go home. But these people should also remember that the whole world uses just one airport-Jeddah to airlift over three million pilgrims the world over that participated in this year's hajj.

'Each country must follow the schedule given to it. I plead with our colleagues back home to always cross-check their information before going to the press because once a damage is done to one's image, it becomes difficult to repair it,' Mana said.