(eTN) – Trouble loomed on the on-going hajj airlift’s horizon at the weekend when Mangal Airline, which was contracted to airlift Borno pilgrims to Saudi Arabia, halted operations at the Maiduguri International airport, accusing the state’s Hajj officials of lack of commitment.
Our correspondent reports that the operator, which has so far airlifted 1,200 of the state’s 3,285 pilgrims in three flights, has refused to return to Maiduguri airport after its third flight departed on Saturday morning with 100 empty seats. Mangal Airline officials were furious that a Boeing 747 jumbo deployed for the airlift waited for many hours at the Maiduguri airport and had to leave without many passengers. The airline said this would lead to a loss of about N8 million.
An airline official told Daily Trust that the aircraft would only return to Maiduguri when it is certified that 450 pilgrims have been fully screened and are awaiting airlift.
Daily Trust learnt that the delay in screening pilgrims had to do with the allocation of Basic Travelling Allowance (BTA) to each pilgrim’s passport, which suffered delays at a bank in Maiduguri designated to handle the issuance of Travellers’ cheques.
When our correspondent visited the airport on Sunday evening, intending pilgrims were full of anxiety as their passports and BTA were not ready. The screening exercise had not commenced, while there was also no sign of the aircraft,
The state’s deputy governor Alhaji Adamu Dibal, who is the Amirul Hajj, told Daily Trust that there was no cause for alarm as there were good arrangements with the air operator to ensure that all pilgrims from the state were airlifted to the holy land in good time. He said he was optimistic that all challenges would be overcome, maintaining that things would go on well.