The inaugural flight for Hajj 2017 carrying pilgrims from the Federal Capital Territory has left for Madinah, aboard a Saudi Arabian airliner, Flynas.
The flight took off from the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport at about 3:15 p.m.
The official flag off ceremony was carried out by the Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo, who was represented by the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Mohammed Bello.
Osinbajo called on the pilgrims to be good ambassadors of the nation and urged them to pray for the prosperity of Nigeria.
“You represent the largest, single group of Nigerians leaving the shores of the country within a specific time.
“You are all ambassadors of this great country, you should, therefore, conduct yourself with the fear of Allah.
“Please pray for our country, our leaders, our dear president so that he can come back safely to continue to steer the country,” he said.
The acting president also called on officials working for the pilgrims to “officiate with good conduct, fear of God and know that you are a unique set of people. If you serve the people well, God will reward you here and the hereafter”.
Earlier in his welcome address, the chairman of National Hajj Commission of Nigeria, (NAHCON), Abdullahi Muktar, said about 79,000 pilgrims are so far registered to participate in the hajj exercise.
Of the number, he said 60,000 are from the 36 states, FCT and the armed forces, while over19,000 are registered by Independent Tour Operators.
Mohammed said “this number is unprecedented going by the global economic crunch including Nigeria”.
Mohammed also said about 25 per cent of officials from the commission and outside have decided to sacrifice their hajj and just work for the pilgrims.
He said the decision is “in tune with the change agenda of the present administration” and called on the pilgrims to take advantage of this sacrifice by calling on the officials to serve them adequately.
He, however, appealed that “officials are also human beings and can make mistakes, when that happens please forgive and pardon our shortcomings and cooperate with us because we are all representing Nigeria.”
Also, the Sultan of Sokoto, Abubakar Sa’ad, in an address on his behalf by the Emir of Bauchi, Rilwan Adamu, said only those enabled by God will perform hajj.
He said Hajj is not tourism but an act of worship. He said the pilgrims must therefore, ensure that they strictly carry out the hajj rites in order to avoid voiding their hajj.
He also called on them to pray for the country and the safe return of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Be sure you eat and rest well but do everything in moderation,” he said.