One thousand, nine hundred and seventy-nine prospective pilgrims from Kaduna State have left for Saudi Arabia for the 2022 Hajj.They are part of the 2,600 slots allocated to the state by the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON).The State Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Agency’s Public Relations Officer, Malam Salisu Anchau, gave the figures to the News Agency of Nigeria on Sunday in Kaduna.He said that the pilgrims were from 18 out of the 23 local government areas of the state.Anchau identified the local governments concerned as Kaduna South, Kajuru, Makarfi, Jama’a, Igabi, Zaria, Ikara, Giwa, Soba, Lere and Kagarko.Others are Kaduna North, Kudan, Kaura, Zangon Kataf, Sanga, Kachia and Chikum.The official said that the prospective pilgrims from the areas were transported to Saudi Arabia in five flights.Anchau assured that the remaining 621 would be taken to Saudi Arabia within the stipulated time frame.He said the Executive Secretary of the agency, Malam Yusuf Arrigassiyu, urged the pilgrims to be good ambassadors of the state and the country while in the holy land.Arrigassiyu also urged them to pray for peace and stability in the state and Nigeria.
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.
Alhaji 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.
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.
A Sokoto state pilgrim has returned a lost pouch containing 700 U.S. dollars, N70,000 and four Saudi Riyals belonging to a Kaduna state pilgrim in Madinah.
The Good Samaritan had found the pouch on the steps of their hotel accommodation where both states pilgrims were lodged.
Alhaji Arzika Bakaya from Tambuwal Local Government Area of Sokoto state says he has no regrets returning the money to its rightful owner.
The minimum Basic Traveling Allowance (BTA) of pilgrim is around 850 dollars for this year’s Hajj.
The pouch was taken to the office of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) and received by Alhaji Ibrahim Mahmud, NAHCON Madinah Coordinator.
‘’During our orientations, our Islamic scholars told us that one doesn’t just found money and claim it in Saudi Arabia. Everything found must be returned or the law will catch up with you. So, when I saw this pouch, I took it to an official of Sokoto state pilgrim welfare board; the PRO.
‘’It was in his presence that we discovered the money inside the pouch. Luckily for us, the pouch also contains the telephone number and passport of the Kaduna pilgrim. I am happy to have satisfied my conscious,’’ he said.
Mahmud thanked Bakaya and pledged to return the money to officials of the Kaduna State Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Board for onward transmission to the owner.
‘’We will follow the same process of getting in touch with officials of the pilgrim’s state just as the Sokoto officials had done by contacting NAHCON. This is a laudable feat by a pilgrim and good for the image of Nigeria.
‘’I will, however, advise all pilgrims to be more careful in handling their money and document while in the Holy Land. The stress involved in losing money is much,’’ he said.
At the handing over, prayers were made for the pilgrim that returned the money, Sokoto state and Nigeria.
Iran insisted Thursday that a revived nuclear deal with major powers remains feasible despite a negative US assessment of two-way talks in Qatar intended to restart stalled negotiations.
The US State Department said EU-brokered proximity talks in the Qatari capital Doha ended Wednesday night without "any progress".
But Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said he believed the talks had been "positive" and a deal could still be reached.
"We are determined to continue negotiating until a realistic agreement is reached," he said after a phone call with his Qatari counterpart, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, who hosted the indirect talks.
"Our assessment of the recent round of talks in Doha is positive," he said.
"I insist that we are making serious efforts to reach a good, solid and lasting agreement," Amir-Abdollahian said.
"An agreement can be reached if the United States is realistic."
The two days of talks, in which EU mediators moved between the Iranian and US delegations, were aimed at restarting broader negotiations between Iran and major powers in Vienna, which have been stalled since March.
The talks are aimed at returning the United States to a 2015 deal that the Trump administration abandoned in 2018 by lifting sweeping economic sanctions it imposed in exchange for Iran returning to full compliance with established limits on its nuclear activities.
Washington has “made clear our readiness to quickly conclude and implement an agreement on mutual return to full compliance,” the US State Department spokesman said after talks in Qatar concluded.
“However, in Doha, as before, Iran raised issues totally unrelated to the JCPOA (Iran nuclear deal) and is apparently not ready to make a fundamental decision on whether it wants to revive the deal or bury it.”
Differences between Tehran and Washington have notably included Iran's demand that its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps be removed from the US terrorist list.
The talks in Doha came just two weeks before US President Joe Biden made his first official visit to the region, with trips to Iran's enemies Israel and Saudi Arabia.
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