Many Nigerians are being held incommunicado in Saudi Arabian prisons.
The Saudi Arabian government has denied Nigerian officials’ access to Nigerian pilgrims who were arrested in Saudi Arabia for various offences during the last Hajj exercise.
The Nigerian Consul-General in Jeddah, Ahmed Umar, made the disclosure when a delegation from Nigeria visited the Deputy Minister of the Saudi Ministry of Hajj, Sahal Bin Abdallah as-Sabban, recently.
Mr. Umar, who did not disclose the number of Nigerians involved, called on Saudi authorities to address the matter appropriately.
The Nigerian delegation was led by her Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Abubakar Shehu Bunu, and comprised of representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria. The delegation was in the Islamic country to hold talks with its Saudi counterparts as part of preparations for the 2013 Hajj.
While addressing the Nigerian delegation during the meeting, Mr. As-Sabban disclosed that the Saudi Ministry of Hajj is introducing a Hajj Electronic Data Management System beginning from the 2013 Hajj to cater for all pilgrims, promising that the Hajj Ministry will cooperate with Nigerian Hajj authorities to enhance Hajj operations generally.
Mr. Bunu, while thanking the Saudi authorities for their continued efforts in making Hajj performance less cumbersome for pilgrims, called for improved communication and better working relationship between the two countries.
The Chairman of the Nigeria Hajj commission, Mohammed Bello, while speaking, harped on the need for both countries to take a clear position on the mahram issue to guard against the re-occurrence of the 2012 episode.
About 1,000 Nigerian female pilgrims were deported by Saudi authorities in 2012 for not having mahrams (male guardians) as required by Saudi law. The issue almost turned to a diplomatic row between both countries.
The chairman reminded the Saudi authorities of the presentation, on the matter, made in October last year by a presidential delegation led by Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal.
He appealed for an upward review of Nigeria’s Hajj quota taking into account the country’s current population; improvement of sanitation in the holy sites, and the need to communicate new guidelines on Hajj in good time.
About 95,000 Nigerians partook in the 2012 Hajj exercise.