By Maryam Garba Hassan
The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria has commenced the screening of air carriers that would transport this year’s 95,000 Nigeria’s pilgrims to the holy land.
The screening exercise which will last for 4 days will also screen licensed tour operators and carriers of excess luggage of pilgrims.
In his address, Commissioner Operations of the Commission, Abdullahi Magaji Hardawa, said the essence of the screening of the carriers is to ensure that no pilgrims are cheated in any way.
He said to achieve the pledge made by the Chairman of the commission on ensuring that hajj fare is reduced, strategies have been put in place to ensure that is acchieved.
He said their major concern is quality and standard are not comprised in the process.
Speaking, Member of House Committee on Pilgrimage, Hon. Kabiru Idris, said the success of every Hajj operations all over the world starts and ends with the aviation.
He however, expressed optimism that with the current leadership of the commission, Nigeria will get it right through the selection of competent, committed and reliable airlines.
He said complaints were received in 2019 by pilgrims at the states and federal levels who were treated badly by Medview airline and that the NASS will not tolerate a repeat.
“It is part of the reason that as law makers, we must ensure that the right things are done. We are not against any airline. It is an open bidding and public requirement have been spelt out”, he said.
He said the country has indigenous air carriers who are capable and should be patronized as stated in the Act which stated that indigenous companies must be patronized in every sector.
He said it is the mission and hope of the Presidency and the 9th National Assembly to encourage and promote indigenous carriers.
He said despite the Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA), Saudi based airlines are operating in Nigeria but none of Nigeria’s indigenous carriers is operating in Saudi.
“I am happy today that our indigenous carriers are meeting up to expectations. I am sure, with the current style they are operating, they can take over Hajj operation in Nigeria someday”, he said.
Responding, Chairman of the Commission, Barr. Zikirullah Kunle Hassan assures that all issues raised by the member House of Representatives, will be looked into.
He said already it has been agreed that only 35 per cent of the 95,000 slots allocated to Nigeria will be given to the two Saudi based carriers.
This year, the commission received applications from 8 airlines among which are 6 indigenous airlines and 2 Saudi air carriers.
On the category of pilgrims’ excess luggage, 4 companies applied.
Airlines who applied are Azman Air Services, Arik Air limited, FlyNas, Max Air, Medview Airline, Skypower, Skyprime and West Link Airline Limited.
Others are Cargo Zeal Technology LTD, Esteem Cargo Tours Nigeria Limited, Sokodeke Global Marine services and Nigeria Aviation Handling Company.