by Isi Esene
The impasse between the Saudi Arabia government and the Nigerian authorities over the deportation of about 500 women on pilgrimage to the Holy Land appears far from being resolved.
Reports say the Saudi Hajj authorities are insisting on deporting more female pilgrims visiting the country unescorted by male relatives or guardians.
According to a statement credited to the Saudi ministry in charge of Hajj Affairs: “There won’t be any entry to Saudi Arabia for those who don’t comply with terms and requirements of the entry visa to the Kingdom to perform the Hajj pilgrimage.”
The ministry’s spokesman, Hatim Bn Hassan Qadhi, maintained his country’s stand on visitors’ compliance to its law saying, “These terms require women under age of 45 years to be accompanied with a male sponsor during the pilgrimage journey and that is stipulated in the woman’s visa or her sponsor regardless of nationality.
“This rule is applied to all women in general who want to get an entry visa to Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj,” he added.
There have been diplomatic exchanges between Nigeria and Saudi Arabia with the vice president, Namadi Sambo, issuing a 24 hour ultimatum to the Saudi authorities to halt the deportation exercise — an ultimatum which was ignored.
The speaker of the House of Representatives was also reported to have flown out to the Saudi Kingdom in a bid to finding an amicable solution to the problem without much success.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian government has halted the airlift of pilgrims to the Holy Land until an agreement has been reached.
The spokesperson of the National Hajj Commission, NAHCON, Uba Mana, said the agency will not resume airlift of pilgrims until all the issues are resolved.
“It does not make sense to airlift people to be detained on landing. We will resume when all outstanding issues are resolved,” he said.