by Isi Esene
The Saudi Arabia government Wednesday disregarded the 24 hour ultimatum given by the Nigerian government through Vice President Namadi Sambo to release the women who were in the holy land for religious pilgrimage.
In defiance to the ultimatum, the Saudi Arabia government deported 510 female pilgrims mainly from Sokoto, Jigawa, and Kano states. The deportees arrived Kano International Airport at about 8:30pm aboard a Meridian Airline flight.
According to the Saudi authorities, the Nigerian women violated its law which stipulates that all women must travel escorted by a male relative.
The Nigerian government officials, however, maintained that Nigeria has a pre-existing agreement with the Saudis which exempts female pilgrim of Nigerian origin from the said law.
Spokesman of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria, Mallam Uba Mana, said those brought back were a part of 1,020 earlier detained by the Saudi officials at the King Fahd Airport.
He said, “We are awaiting a response from the King of Saudi Arabia so that a discussion can be opened between the two parties.
“We strongly believe that there is hope in sight, we hope that shortly the whole thing would be resolved,” Mana stated.
Meanwhile, the Saudi ambassador to Nigeria, Khaled O. Y. Abdrabuh visited the speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal to intimate him on the steps taken by representatives of both countries to settle the diplomatic dispute amicably.
A source who was privy to the discussions said the Saudi ambassador “told the speaker that in the next 24 hours, the problem will be resolved. He confirmed that there had been high-level talks between the officials of the two countries and assured that the problem of the pilgrims would be resolved within 24 hours.”
However, there are reports that Tambuwal might fly out to Saudi Arabia on Friday (today) “to have a first-hand assessment of the situation and speed up the negotiation”.
“The speaker may likely be on his way to Saudi Arabia tomorrow (today),” a source close to Tambuwal said about his trouble-shooting efforts said.