Oyo Gov restates commitment to direct airlifting of hajj pilgrims before 2027


Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State has said he is committed to ensuring that before the expiration of his tenure in 2027, Muslim pilgrims are airlifted from Ibadan to Saudi Arabia.

Makinde restated this commitment during a farewell ceremony held in Ibadan, on Wednesday, for the state’s pilgrims to Saudi Arabia.

Giving an update on the state’s efforts, Makinde said regulators had actually agreed to airlift pilgrims from the state from Ibadan but gave a condition that the passengers will have to stop over in Lagos for necessary documentations and processes, which he was not okay with.

He said his desire for direct airlifting of pilgrims to Saudi Arabia placed certain demands on the state.

He said part of the requirements was the expansion of the runway at the Ibadan airport, widening of the roads that lead to the airport, building of fuel depot for aircraft to re-fuel, saying the few things left would be completed in the next 18months.

He charged intending Pilgrims from the state to be good ambassadors and not be found wanting in any way.

Makinde said: “The first time I came to Olodo, I told our pilgrims that before I leave government, they will airlift from Ibadan airport. Yes, we have been at it, we are trying. Its been five years now, but part of the problem was that, they agreed to airlift from Ibadan but insisted that they will have to stop by in Lagos for some documentation and processing and I said that wasn’t my vision.

“My vision is that, you will do all processes here in Ibadan, and as soon as you board here, you are heading straight to Saudi Arabia directly.

“All the things we are supposed to do, some of them, we are doing already. They asked us to widen the road that leads to the airport, we have done it. They asked us to create a point where planes can refuel, we have done it. The only thing left, that we should extend our runway by another 600metres, that we should install ILS and we should build another terminal where they can process passengers and we are on it. The target is within the next 18months, that also will be done.”

While charging the officials leading the trip to prioritise the welfare of the pilgrims, he charged the state pilgrims also to be good ambassadors and focus on the purpose of the religious activity.

He also said he remained undeterred by those criticising him and claiming he’s not doing enough for Muslims in the state, noting that such people are only seeking attention and he won’t give them.

He said he is focused on ensuring that everyone gets their dues accordingly in the state irrespective of religion or ant other bias.

He added: “So, please, my people going on Hajj, I have one or two advise for you but before I give you, let me talk to the officials.

“The welfare of our people can not be compromise, so you must look after every pilgrim from Oyo state.

“To the intending Pilgrims, I have three pieces of advice for you. You have to represent Oyo state well. You must be good ambassadors of Oyo State. Don’t collect any package from just anyone to be delivered to another person in Saudi Arabia, please don’t take such a package because there are many people out there. The person you don’t know, don’t let them send you any errands.

“Secondly, don’t get there and immediately start spending spree shopping. Finish up the main purpose which is religious and prayers, there will be days when you can go shopping.

“You must look after yourselves. Don’t say someone is from Oke Ogun and you don’t care about someone from Ibadan whe you get to the Holy land. Please, the prayer you are going there to offer, please pray for us, our government, yourselves and your families and I know God will answer our prayers.”

The governor also seized the opportunity to assure the residents that the government will soon complete work on the ongoing Olodo bridge, which he said was a reason the Hajj Camp, Olodo could not be used for the farewell ceremony.

“Some people are wondering why I am dressed in the same outfit as those going on Hajj, wondering if I am also going. Well, you know that for us in the Southwest, when people are celebrating, we always join and share in their celebration.

“I am so happy today and I heard all that the Chairman, Muslim Wing, Sheikh Atere said earlier. The only reason that we are here is that we were suppose to be at the Hajj Camp, Olodo but because we have demolished the Olodo bridge and ongoing work on the road.

“But, by the end of this week, one side of the road will be open for vehicular movement and before next year Hajj, the two sides will have been opened and the road from Iwo Road to Hajj camp, Olodo will be clear and we won’t be worried if any kind of holdup to getting to the camp. So, this is a makeshift arrangement and that of next year would be better than this.”

Speaking earlier, the Chairman, Pilgrims Welfare Board, Muslim Wing, Sheikh Hashim Atere lauded the governor for supporting the vision to make the 2024 Hajj seamless.

He said: “This Board had secured a befitting accommodation very close to Haram for the pilgrims. I am delighted to inform Your Excellencies that local meals have been included in the menu list for our pilgrims. It is also worthy of mentioning that all arrangements have been made to make accommodation check-in easy for our pilgrims in Makkah.

“We have indicated their hotel and room number in each pilgrim’s identity card to be worn right from lbadan. This is an unprecedented treat in the history of this Board. All our pilgrims have been granted Haij Visas with no exception. It is to be noted that Oyo State is the first Sate the in the Southwest and the second State in the country, to have all pilgrims in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia within the first week of the comnmencement airlifting for Hajj.”

In their various goodwill messages, the Chief Imam of Ibadanland, Sheikh Abdulganiy Agbotomokekere, Professor K. K. Olosho, Chief Adebayo Oyero, and other Muslim leaders from other parts of the state including the League of Imams and Alfas in attendance lauded Makinde for his unprecedented commitments towards the welfare and well-being of Muslim community in the state.

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