The controversy surrounding Nigerian female pilgrims to Saudi Arabia continued Thursday as 283 female pilgrims from various parts of the country were deported from the Kingdom.
The deported are part of the 1000 Nigerian female pilgrims detained by Saudi authorities for allegedly not being accompanied by male relatives (Muharams) as prescribed in the Quoran.
Of this figure, Sokoto State, where the spiritual leader of Nigerian Muslims is based, had 102 females deported in the early hours of Thursday.
The pilgrims were transported back to Sokoto aboard a Max Air aircraft.
The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria, NAHCON, in Abuja confirmed the repatriation of the females to the country.
The Manager of the Sultan Abubakar III International Airport, Sokoto, Abubakar Lawal, said , on Thursday in Sokoto, that the deported pilgrims have since travelled to their respective local government areas.
He said that the affected pilgrims are hale and hearty.
All efforts to get the reaction of the Chairman of the State Pilgrims’ Welfare Agency, Muntari Maigona, or its Public Relations Officer, Faruk Umar, failed.
Like Sokoto, like Taraba
In Jalingo, Taraba State capital, no fewer than 62 female pilgrims were repatriated
The Chairman of the Taraba Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Board, Tukur Hamman-Adama, explained that the women were transported from the King Abdulazeez International Airport, Jeddah, to Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano.
He said that the women were actually accompanied but that the checking system at the Jeddah Airport was such that men were checked, cleared and asked to proceed.
“When it was the turn of the women to be checked and cleared, the Security claimed they were not accompanied by their guardians (Mahram) and were unwilling to listen to any explanation and went ahead to detain them,” he said.
Mr. Hamman-Adama wondered why the Saudi Authorities became rigid this year.
The chairman said that arrangements were being made to convey those affected back to Jalingo, pending the outcome of the current negotiations between the Nigerian Government and its Saudi Arabian counterpart.
“We have never allowed a female pilgrim from Taraba to travel un- accompanied,” Mr. Hamman-Adama said.
In Birnin Kebbi, eight female pilgrims were among those brought back from Jeddah to Nigeria.
A reliable source at the Pilgrims Hajj camp said in Birnin Kebbi on Thursday that the affected pilgrims hailed from Kalgo, Yauri and Shanga local government areas.
The source stated that the affected Pilgrims were transported to Saudi Arabia in the fourth flight.
The state’s Amirul Hajj, Garba Dandiga, said there has been no official figure of the pilgrims who were detained in Saudi Arabia.
He said a meeting of the officials of the board and members of the state delegation would be held to determine the next line of action.
Meanwhile, families of another batch of 111 female pilgrims brought back from Saudi Arabia were stranded at the Musa Yar’Adua International Airport in Katsina.
Saudi holds on to Zamfara women
The hope of 182 female pilgrims from Zamfara to perform this year’s Hajj is still uncertain, following their continued detention by immigration officials of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Public Relations officer of the state agency, Yakubu Mafara, said in an interview in Gusau on Thursday, that the affected pilgrims were transported from Sokoto to Saudi Arabia in batches four and five.
He said reports from Saudi Arabia have confirmed that the detained pilgrims are in good health and being given attention by the officials of the NAHCON and the Zamfara Welfare agency.
He said since the announcement of the 48 hours suspension of further transportation of pilgrims, activities at Zamfara Hajj camp and the agencies headquarters had slowed down.
Mr. Mafara said that none of the detained pilgrims from the state had been brought back as at Thursday from Saudi Arabia.
Delta Pilgrims still at home
But in Asaba, Delta State, the state government says it is yet to airlift its Muslim pilgrims to the Holy Land for the Hajj rites.
The state Commissioner for Bureau for Special Duties, Tony Nwaka, said this in an interview in Asaba on Thursday.
Mr. Nwaka said that the delay in transporting pilgrims from the state is not peculiar to the state alone but to other states in the zone, as states in the zone had not been called up to be transported.
Gombe sensitizes women pilgrims
In Gombe State, the Pilgrims Welfare Board said that it has started sensitizing its female pilgrims to ensure they have male counterparts, to avoid deportation.
The Executive Secretary of the board, Gidado Maigana, disclosed this in an interview on Thursday.
Mr. Maigana explained that he would also place announcements on the radio stations to sensitise the female pilgrims on the need to ensure that they meet all the requirements for the annual pilgrimage.
He said he had met with the Amirul Hajj, technical committee team, and other stakeholders with the aim of ensuring that all the intending pilgrims from the state performed the pilgrimage.
The executive secretary, however, said that with the recent problems faced by Nigerian female pilgrims in the Holy Land, the date for the commencement of the transportation of pilgrims from the state would be affected.
“We were not informed about the development but we have just heard what is happening.
“We had intended to start transporting the pilgrims on October 2, but with the 48 hours suspension, it is going to affect our date,” he said.
Mr. Maigana assured all the intending pilgrims that they would perform the trip and urged them to continue to pray for the success of the journey.
Adamawa yet to be affected
In Yola, Adamawa State, more than half of the 2,427 pilgrims from the state have been transported to Hajj.
The Yola zonal official of the National Hajj Commission, NAHCO, Zakariyau Umar, made this known in Yola.
He said three flights had taken off, remaining two more flights.
Mr. Umar also said he was not aware of any Adamawa pilgrims experiencing the challenge being faced by female pilgrims from other states.
Kaduna women adhered to rule
In Kaduna State, the State Government said on Thursday that 505 of the 7,531 pilgrims have been transported to Saudi Arabia for this year’s pilgrimage.
The Coordinator of the State Pilgrims Camp, Yusuf Ladan, said out of the intending pilgrims so far transported, 200 were female.
He said the intending female pilgrims had fulfilled the requirements demanded by the Saudi Arabian government before being taken to the Holy Land.
Mr. Ladan, however, said the state Pilgrims Welfare Board had suspended airlifting of the intending pilgrims pending the outcome of the ongoing negotiation between the Federal Government and Saudi Arabian Government.
Rivers women yet to travel
In Port Harcourt, the Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Board has said that its female pilgrims are not among those detained in Saudi Arabia since they are yet to commence airlifting.
In Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, Muslim Pilgrims Board has said that it was going to adjust with the new Saudi Arabia laws on female pilgrims.
The Akwa Ibom Chairman of the board, Baba Jaro, stated this on Thursday in Uyo while reacting to the return of some Nigerian female pilgrims from Saudi Arabia.
Mr. Jaro said that arrangements were on ground to ensure that intending female pilgrims visit the holy land with their guardians.
“The Saudi have their own way of doing things. We are not happy with the way our people were repatriated.
“But you know this is a thing of God and we cannot fight them than to adjust to their new law,” he said.
Mr. Jaro said “90 pilgrims and 2 officials will be visiting the holy land from the state, and all the females on the trip are with their male guardians to avoid repatriation.”
He said the tentative date of departure is October 7.