About 500 intending pilgrims from Ondo, Ekiti, Kwara States and part of Oyo in the early hours of Monday disrupted activities at Ilorin Airport to protest the delay in their flight to Saudi Arabia.
The pilgrims who began their protest around 3:00 a.m. blocked Ilorin/Ogbomoso/Ibadan Expressway with old tyres and shut the gate leading to the Airport.
The protesters who blocked the gate did not allow Airport workers to resume duty as they prevented vehicles from coming in or going out of the Airport.
They alleged that they had been in the Ilorin Hajj camp for the past 15 days without provision of an aircraft to convey them to Saudi Arabia for the Holy Pilgrimage. They alleged that they were subjected to poor and unhygienic condition at the Camp.
One of the protesters who identified himself as Ayobami Muftau said, “We have been in camp for 15 days sleeping on the bare floor and buying food at exorbitant prices from our purse. We were moved to the Airport on Saturday based on the promise that an aircraft would arrive to convey us to Jeddah at 11:00 p.m. on Saturday. Till now, we have not seen the aircraft and there was no explanation from the concerned authority. ”
Ayobami appealed to the Federal government to come to their aid by providing aircraft that would transport them to Saudi Arabia to perform the Hajj rites.
Another pilgrim from Ekiti state, Usman Isa, who said that they left Aiyede-Ekiti ten days ago alleged that the pilgrims were exposed to harsh weather conditions as “all of us, both male and female were made to sleep in the open hall at the hajj camp and Airport.”
However, the acting Manager of Ilorin Airport, Mr Deji Eniola, said that the problem facing the pilgrims emanated from the airline delegated to convey them to Saudi Arabia.
He explained that the airline had been expected to send an aircraft to Ilorin since Saturday but did not come. He added, “There was no explanation from the management of the Airline on why it had not come to airlift the pilgrims. ”
He expressed hope that the pilgrims would be airlifted soon.