The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria on Wednesday in Abuja submitted the report of the 2015 Hajj to the Federal Government and put the number of casualties involved in two tragic accidents at 280 while 43 have been declared missing.
While receiving the report in his office, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, commended the chairman of NAHCON, Abdullahi Mohammed, and its entire board members for their exemplary performance in Saudi Arabia, especially during the tragedies that occurred during the Hajj.
A statement by the Deputy Director of Press in the Office of the SGF, Bolaji Adebiyi, quoted Lawal as saying he was impressed with the conduct of the chairman in providing the government adequate and incontrovertible information about the crisis.
He assured the commission that the report would receive the prompt attention of the government.
Mohammed described the 2015 Hajj as “the most eventful in the history of Hajj operations in Nigeria,” with pilgrims witnessing two tragic events: the crane incident at the Grand Mosque in Makkah on September 11, 2015, and the stampede recorded in Mina on September 24, 2015.
“Nigeria recorded a total of 280 deaths from both events, while 43 are considered missing as their status have yet to be ascertained,” he stated.
Mohammed condoled with President Muhammadu Buhari, families of the victims and indeed, Nigerians on the loss of lives, with an assurance that the report submitted contained observations and indeed, recommendations that would ensure more successes during future Hajj exercises.
According to him, a total of 75,081 Nigerian pilgrims participated in the 2015 Hajj exercises, adding that “both the outbound and inbound flights were concluded well ahead of schedule.”
The Secretary-General of Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, Prof. Is-haq Oloyede, had blamed the Hajj stampede on poor arrangement.
In an interview with Saturday PUNCH, he had expressed sadness over the loss of lives “who could have been protected but were terminated due to circumstances that I believe were preventable.”
He had said, “I am not sure that in the two incidents that we cannot find any evidence of lack of preparation and lack of adequate provision for saving the lives of pilgrims. I am aware that Saudi Arabia is doing a fantastic job in terms of providing infrastructure but I also believe that (probably due to diversion of the limited resources and human resources they have), I want to believe that sufficient arrangement had not been made for the security of pilgrims.
“I may be wrong but whether I am right or wrong, I believe this can be ascertained by setting up an independent international panel comprising objective people; it is not just apportioning blames and sanctions, but that we work out a programme that will make this kind of incident preventable in the future and I think that what is important is to be able to avoid this kind of incident in the future.
“I want to believe that those charged with the responsibility of catering for the pilgrims should be held accountable for what has happened because we have contrary evidence and as of now, we do not know which one is correct. An independent panel that is not just local to Saudi Arabia will be able to establish what really happened.”