Following the delay of their flight to Saudi Arabia for Hajj, about 500 intending pilgrims mainly from Ondo, Ekiti, Kwara and the remaining batch from Oyo State, in the early hours of Monday blocked Ilorin/Ogbomoso/Ibadan expressway with old tyres and shut the gate leading to the Ilorin Airport to protest the non availability of aircraft to airlift them to the Holy land.
The pilgrims who commenced their protest around 3:00 a.m. disrupted activities at the airport and shut the main entrance to the airport. They prevented vehicles and workers from entering in or leaving the airport.
According to Punch, the pilgrims said they had been in the Ilorin Hajj camp for the past 15 days without the provision of an aircraft to take them to Saudi. They further said that they were subjected to poor and unhygienic condition at the camp.
Ayobami Muftau, who is one of the protesters 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.”
He appealed to the federal government to come to their aid by providing an aircraft for them.
A pilgrim from Ekiti State, Usman Isa, who said that he left Aiyede-Ekiti 10 days ago stated 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.”
In his explanation, the acting manager of Ilorin Airport, Mr Deji Eniola said the delay in airlifting the pilgrims emanated from the airline delegated to convey them to Saudi Arabia.
He said the airline was expected to send an aircraft to Ilorin since Saturday but did not come.
“There was no explanation from the management of the airline on why it had not come to airlift the pilgrims,” he added.