Ikeja - The first batch of 517 pilgrims from the South-West Zone were transported on Sunday morning to Medina, Saudi Arabia, from the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Ikeja.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that pilgrims from Osun and Ogun were transported by Med-View Airline, while those from Lagos State were transported by Max Air.
The Managing Director of Med-View Airline, Muneer Bankole, told newsmen that the Airline would transport most of the pilgrims from the South-West and the South-East.
"Med-View Airline would be transporting the pilgrims from Lagos, Ilorin and Port Harcourt, and we have deployed another Boeing 747 series to handle Ilorin and Port -Harcourt Zones, ‘’Bankole said.
He said that the airline had been approved to transport 5 500 pilgrims from the three zones.
Bankole said that with 30 years experience in handling Hajj operations, Med-View Airline had put in place adequate arrangements that would ensure the success of this year's Hajj.
"We will ensure that any female pilgrim, without a male accompanying her, will not be allowed to board any of our aircraft from the zones allocated to us.
"This is to forestall the repatriation of some female pilgrims by the Saudi Government-- as was the case last year-- because such females violated the law,’’ Bankole said.
He assured the pilgrims that Med-View Airline planned to complete the transportation of the pilgrims by September 19.
NAN reports that the pilgrims wore local Ankara fabrics, which served as the official uniform approved by their respective state governments, for easy identification.
The Osun State female pilgrims wore the hijab with the inscription - 'State of Osun Pilgrims, Nigeria' - as part of their dress code.
Some of the pilgrims who spoke with the NAN, thanked Allah for granting them the good health and financial strength to embark on the pilgrimage.
Kudirat Oladunmoye, a teacher among the Osun pilgrims, told NAN that she was going there to worship Allah, pray for Nigeria, her state, her husband and family members.
Oladunmoye said she had been saving for the pilgrimage since May 2012.
"I thank God that I was able to pay the first instalment of N500 000 in January and the remaining N250 000 in June.
"I paid for my airfare and other essential charges from my purse. The state government only paid for the cloth we would be wearing there,’’ she said.
Oladunmoye said that she was looking forward to an excellent service from Med-View Airline that would transport Osun pilgrims to and from Medina.
"Jamiu Awesu, a pilgrim from Lagos State, expressed appreciation to the state government for assisting him and others financially, toward the realisation of this dream.
Awesu, a 44 year-old trader, said that he would be a good ambassador of the state before, during and after the exercise.
Another pilgrim, who spoke on condition of anonymity, advised government representatives on the pilgrimage to ensure that the pilgrims would not engage in unholy acts while in Saudi Arabia.
"Pilgrims should not be allowed to indulge in buying and selling as that could distract them from focusing on why they were in Saudi Arabia.
"Those doing that would be turning the pilgrimage into tourism, rather than a mission for the purification of their souls'', he said.