Saturday, April 19, 2014

Saudi Arabia soft-pedals, to readmit deported Nigerian pilgrims with valid visas

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Many deportees went to Saudi Arabia as pilgrims

The Saudi Arabian authorities have agreed to allow deported Nigerian pilgrims with valid visas to be transported to the holy land to Perform the 2012 Hajj.

The Speaker of the House Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, who led a Presidential Committee to Saudi Arabia, said this on Monday in Abuja, on arrival at the presidential wing of the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport.

Members of the delegation include the Emir of Zuru, Sani Sami, Aminu Dantata, Prof. Shehu Galadanchi, Chairman, Nigerian Hajj Commission (NAHCON), Mohammed Bello and the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs II, Nurudeen Mohammed.

Mr. Tambuwal said the Saudi authorities was also considering Nigeria’s request that the deadline for the transportation of the pilgrims be extended to accommodate the deported ones.

“Our interface with the Saudi authorities has been very successful because we had serious and deep engagement.

“The first good news is that all those pilgrims who have secured valid visa are being taken back.

“The understanding so far with them is that they will be allowed entry into Saudi Arabia,’’ he said.

Mr. Tambuwal said that the issue of male companion for female pilgrims was also settled as the Nigerian delegation made it known that the issue of the companion (Muharam) was open to different interpretations from the four jurisprudences in Islam.

“Of course under the Islamic jurisprudence, Muharram is a requirement but there are different categories of Muharams, as different schools of Islamic jurisprudence, the Maliki, the Shafi’i, the Hambali and the Hanafi.

“These are the four pronounced schools and they have their different definition of Muharam.

“We have passed across to them that message and we believe that they understand and reason with us that in Nigeria, the predominant Islamic school of jurisprudence is Maliki school of thought, which allows for a group Muharram.’’

He said the meeting was able to reinforce the long standing relationship between the two countries.

“I believe also that, if need be, we have requested for them to extend the time of transportation and also the time of issuance of visa to our pilgrims,’’ he said.

However, shortly after the Speaker spoke, the spokesman of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), Uba Mana, said the Saudi authorities had deported another 20 intending women pilgrims back to Nigeria.

Mr. Mana told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja that 19 of the pilgrims were from Kwara while one was from Oyo State.

He said that the pilgrims were deported for not having complete travelling documents.

Mr. Mana blamed officials of the Kwara Pilgrims Welfare Board for the lapse, pointing out that immigration officials had raised observations about the documents before their departure but that officials from the state insisted that they were intact.

According to him, as a result, the Kwara Amirul Hajj and other officials of the state pilgrim’s board have been summoned by NAHCON to Abuja on Tuesday for a meeting in connection with the issue.

NAN reports that the pilgrims were brought back to the country through the Malam Aminu Kano International Airport at about 6 a.m. on Monday aboard a Boeing 747 Kabo aircraft.

NAN

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