Four Nigerian airlines - Aero Contractors, Air Peace, Azman Air and MaxAir (Nigeria) - have signed an airlift agreement for the 2023 hajj season with the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) and the Association of Hajj and Umrah Operators in Nigeria (AHUON) after reaching agreement over increased costs resulting from the renewed armed conflict in Sudan.

The four were selected to transport Nigerian pilgrims to Saudi Arabia for the 2023 hajj which starts on May 21 but they refused to sign the agreement on May 2 citing increased costs resulting from longer flight routes to Saudi Arabia following the closure of airspace over Sudan.

In a statement, NAHCON spokesman Mousa Ubandawaki said the disagreement had been resolved and the chief executives of the four airlines had inked the agreement at Hajj House in Abuja on May 9.

Speaking at the event, Air Peace Chief Executive Officer Allen Onyeama said the review of the airlift agreement with NAHCON was not aimed at exploiting the Sudan crisis for business gains. “We care for the Nigerian pilgrims, many of whom we know to have made personal sacrifices in paying for the hajj. We are also mindful of the fact that the pilgrims had already paid before this crisis broke out. We don’t want to deprive them of this opportunity to make the journey to the Holy Land. We are doing it for national pride,” he said.

Aero Contractors Managing Director Ado Sanusi said that logistical and operational considerations had required a review of the agreement. "We won’t like anything that will disrupt our operation halfway,” he commented.

NAHCON Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Zikrullah Kunle Hassan appealed to the airlines not to exploit the situation for financial gain. “We are not unmindful of the challenge posed by the closure of the Sudan airspace to your hajj operation; however, I wish to appeal to your conscience and sense of patriotism not to further burden the pilgrims with additional costs or changes,” he said.