The number of Nigerian pilgrims who have died at the current Hajj exercise has risen from five to seven, officials have stated.
The Chairman of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), Abdullahi Mohammed, disclosed this in an interview with journalists at Mount Arafat, Saudi Arabia on Thursday.
Mr. Mohammed had earlier on Tuesday at the pre-Arafat meeting with Hajj stakeholders announced the death of five Nigerian pilgrims.
Though, 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 stated.
He 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 pilgrims under any distress situation should call this number 90008251, 920008251,” he said.
He said the commission has a robust, effective and well-coordinated medical team with ambulances stationed in various medical camps to attend to emergency needs of pilgrims.
He said the commission was also coordinating well with the state officials to attend to the needs of the pilgrims.
He expressed satisfaction over the hitch-free movement of pilgrims from Makkah to Muna and to Arafat.
Climbing the 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 10-15 minutes, maximum of 20 minutes, you arrive at your destination,” Mr. Mohammed said.
“So, actually, the Saudi system is working perfectly. But, just like any other human endeavour, there is always room for improvement. We hope, the authorities, despite the successes recorded they will try to meet up, especially the turnaround time of the vehicles,” he added.
He said the return of pilgrims to Nigeria will commence on September 7, stressing that the commission will maintain the ‘first in first out policy,’ except for those under emergency.