Nigeria protests denial of consular access to detained female pilgrims by Saudi Arabia

FILE PHOTO: Many deportees went to Saudi Arabia as pilgrims

Foreign Affairs Minister, Olugbenga Ashiru, on Friday in New York, protested against the denial of consular access to detained Nigerian female pilgrims in Saudi Arabia.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that the Saudi authorities had detained about 1000 female pilgrims from Nigeria since Tuesday on the pretext that they were not accompanied by escorts.

Mr. Ashiru, who met with his Saudi Arabian counterpart, Prince Abdullah Aziz, said the refusal of consular access to the pilgrims contravened the Vienna Convention.

The convention provides for such access by an Ambassador, Consul-General or representatives from the embassy to their nationals in distress.

The minister, who described the actions of the Saudi authorities as unfortunate, said it was not a true reflection of the historic ties between both nations.

He called for an urgent solution to the problem and stressed the need for the intending pilgrims to be treated with respect and dignity.

On his part, Mr. Aziz expressed regret over the development, adding that the denial of entry to unaccompanied female pilgrims was not a Saudi Arabian regulation, but an Islamic requirement that “women must be accompanied by Mehrams.”

While noting that efforts were being made to resolve the matter, he urged intending female pilgrims to comply with the Islamic injunction to avoid similar circumstances in future.

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