Following the completion of talks with the authorities in Saudi Arabia, President Muhammadu Buhari has directed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the National Hajj Commission, NAHCON to sit down with the Saudis to negotiate improved terms and conditions for Nigerian pilgrims performing the Umrah and the annual Hajj in that country, the presidency has said.
”This followed the acceptance by the Saudi government to freely and openly discuss outstanding issues with Nigeria,” a president spokesperson, Garba Shehu, said in a statement.
He added, ”President Buhari, among other things, requested the Saudis to conclude all issues with the Nigerian Hajj Commission, such as the undetermined outcome of their investigation into the stampede at Muna last year, where our officials believe that 274 Nigerian lives were lost.
”There is also the case of compensation for six Nigerians killed in the crane incident in the precincts of the Kaaba and 35 others from the stampede whose DNA profile is feared to be missing.
”President Buhari equally charged the Ministry and the NAHCON to seek a reduction of fees associated with the Umrah Visa.
”Among the 17 issues tendered at the initial meeting between the officials of both countries, Nigeria appreciated the increase offered for Umrah pilgrimage but asked that the 76,000 seats maintained for he Hajj be similarly increased.
”The meeting was led by Nigeria’s Minister of State, Fatima Abba Ibrahim and the the Chairman of NAHCON, Abdullahi Muhammed, on the Nigerian side while the Saudi side was led by their Minister of Hajj Affairs, Dr Bandar bin Muhammad al-Hajjar.
”It is expected to follow up I’d the issues in the coming weeks.”