The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) says it has transported 31,435 pilgrims back home in 65 flights from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
According to NAHCON command and control centre in Makkah monitored by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Thursday in Abuja, the latest returnees were 430 pilgrims from Kebbi State and two officials aboard Flynas XY7484.
Also 559 pilgrims from Borno state with one official came back aboard Max Air NGL 2080 which departed Jeddah airport in the early hours of Thursday Saudi Arabian time.
NAN reports that no fewer than 1.8 million pilgrims around the world, including 65,000 Nigerians performed the 2019 hajj in Saudi Arabia. (NAN)
Gunmen Attack Mosque in Delta, Injure Many
Unidentified gunmen early Friday morning, attacked a mosque in Ughelli, Delta state, leaving 11 worshippers injured.
A resident who spoke to NAN on phone, said the attack took place at about 6.47 am when some Muslim faithful were holding their morning prayers at the Central mosque, located along Okoroda street in Ughelli.
The resident who gave his name simply as Larry, said many residents were jolted from their sleep by gunshots followed by loud cries from people inside the mosque.
“My name is Larry, I am commercial vehicle driver here in Ughelli. I live very close to the central mosque, so this morning at about 6.45 am we heard shooting at the mosque.
“Because of fear, many people in my compound were frightened and we remained inside only peeping through our windows.
“As the shooting lasted, we heard loud cries from some worshippers inside the mosque,” Larry said.
According to him, after the invaders left, many residents thronged to the mosque in their numbers to see what happened.
He said residents helped to evacuate injured worshippers, adding that those that survived the attack suffered severe injuries.
Larry said that some of the worshippers told residents that three of their fellow worshippers were taken away by the gunmen.
When contacted, the Delta police spokesperson, DSP Bright Edafe, confirmed the attack to NAN but said that only 11 worshippers were injured in the attack.
He, however, did not confirm the abduction of three worshippers.
“I just called the DPO at Ughelli and he confirmed to me that 11 persons were injured in the attack at the mosque.
“However, the police have commence investigation into the incident and we will update you as we work to unravel the culprits.
“For now, no arrest has been made but I can assure you that we will get those involved,” Edafe said. (NAN)
Pope Francis Meets Nigerian Pilgrims in Rome, Prays for Country
By Tony Obiechina, Abuja
Pope Francis has granted audience to the Nigerian Pilgrims during the 2022 special pilgrimage to Rome organized by the Nigerian Christian Pilgrim Commission, NCPC.
The Nigerian Pilgrims were led to the papal audience at the Vatican City by his Grace, Most Rev. Ignatius Kaigama, among other high profile personalities.
A statement by Celestine Toruka NCPC Deputy Director/Head Media & Public Relations in Abuja said the Pontiff received the Nigerian flag from the Nigerian pilgrims and prayed for peace and progress of Nigeria.
He also prayed for those who lost their lives in the flood incident in Nigeria.
The Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Christian Pilgrim Commission Rev. Dr. Yakuba Pam described the audience with the pope as spiritually fulfilling, and Commended the good conduct of the pilgrims during the special pilgrimage to Rome in spite of the fact that there were some inadequacies, coupled with the fact the pilgrims were not able to visit Israel due to operational reasons.
However, the NCPC Boss assured the pilgrims especially the self-sponsored ones that the Commission would come up with a mechanism to accommodate them in the next pilgrimage exercise.
The President of the Baptist Convention, Rev. Dr. Israel Akanji who was one of the Pilgrims who met the Pope during the Papal audience stated that the visit was awesome and would have a special effect on Nigeria and her people. According to him “the fact that the Pope prayed for Nigeria and her people signifies a new beginning for the country”.
In the same vein, the general Secretary of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Barr Joseph Daramola also affirmed that the Papal audience was the best thing that help the pilgrims.
He was specifically happy that he personally handed over the Nigerian flag to Pope Francis. His words, “I will never forget this experience in my life”. He further stated, “ I thank the NCPC for providing this veritable platform to be in the presence of his Holiness”, he said.
The Special Adviser to the Governor of Lagos State on Religion,(Christian) very Rev. Bukola Adeleke explained that the number of Holy sites visited during the special pilgrimage to Rome was worth the salt. He said that the pilgrims visited the St. John Basilica, the Basilica of Mary as well as St. Peters Basilica all in Vatican among other important Holy sites visited.
He commended the efforts of NCPC in putting this special pilgrimage together while hoping that future special pilgrimage to Rome should be improved upon by the Commission.
In his assessment of the 2022 Special Pilgrimage to Rome, the Executive Secretary of the Enugu State Christian Pilgrims Welfare Board, Barrister Nestor Ezeme spoke on the Papal visit which he said was his first time ever to personally meet with his Holiness. He said he could not contain himself for joy for such a privilege of a life time.
He said he would encourage his other colleagues in other states to see the need to embark on a Special Pilgrimage to Rome with their pilgrims considering its attendant blessings.
On the quality of hotels where the pilgrims were accommodated, he lauded the NCPC for providing descent accommodation for the pilgrims.
He particularly thanked the NCPC Boss for making sure that the special Pilgrimage to Rome was a reality in spite of all odds.
About 112 pilgrims participated in the NCPC 2022 special pilgrimage to Rome, made up of self sponsored pilgrims, Lagos and Enugu Pilgrims as well as some high profile personalities which include both the Deputy Governor of Enugu and Nasarawa State as well as some first class traditional rulers.
Macron Meets Pope, Talks on Ukraine, Prospects for Peace
French President Emmanuel Macron and Pope Francis held nearly an hour of private talks on Monday.
The duo discussed mainly the crisis in Ukraine and prospects for peace.
Macron, accompanied by his wife Brigitte, arrived at the Vatican and was greeted by an honour guard of Swiss Guards in the San Damaso courtyard before taking an elevator to the official papal study in the Apostolic Palace.
The Vatican said their private talks lasted 55 minutes.
Both sides were expected to issue statements later.
Macron is in Italy to attend an international conference organised by Italy’s Sant’Egidio Community, a worldwide peace and charity group.
He and the pope will jointly close the conference at a special ceremony at the Colosseum in Rome on Tuesday.
Opening the conference on Rome’s outskirts on Sunday, Macron said he believed there was a chance for peace in Ukraine, even as Russia warned the conflict could escalate.(Reuters/NAN)
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