State of denial: “Saudi Arabia never deported any Nigerian pilgrim” – Hajj commission changes position

by Stanley Azuakola

Officials of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) are trying hard to put a spin on the deportation of some female Muslim pilgrims from Saudi Arabia last week by the Saudi Arabian government. They are now describing the reports as untrue.

The new explanation from the Hajj commission is that the sudden return of the female pilgrims was at the instance of Nigerian government,which wanted to rectify certain anomalies. Obviously, this claim is hard to believe, considering that the spokesman of the Hajj commission, Mallam Uba Mana had said last week that they were “awaiting a response from the King of Saudi Arabia so that a discussion can be opened between the two parties.”

Communicating the new position of the commission in a press briefing in Abuja on Saturday, the chairman of NAHCON, Mallam Mohammed Musa Bello, said that the issue of a male companion for female pilgrims to the kingdom is a fundamental aspect of the hajj exercise which Nigeria cannot afford to violate. This also is a clear contradiction from the commission’s earlier position which claimed that there was an existing agreement between Nigerian and Saudi Arabian authorities which exempts female Nigerian pilgrims from that law.

Mallam Bello denied the news that the Federal Government delegation to Saudi Arabia was denied visa to the kingdom noting that the issue of the departure of the delegation has to do with the disparity in timing between the two countries.

He had good news for intending pilgrims; disclosing that the suspended airlifting operation of the pilgrims would resume as soon as all the challenges that led to the problem are addressed.  Already, eight states with 32 flight schedules are on standby to commence operation when the challenges are sorted out.

He promised that all the pilgrims would be airlifted before the October 20 closing date of the King Abdulazeez International Airport Jeddah and Madinah airport.

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