Female pilgrims detention: FG gives Saudi Arabia 24 hours to resolve issue

Channels Television  
Updated September 26, 2012

The Federal Government on Wednesday in Abuja gave the Saudi Arabia government 24 hours to resolve the issues surrounding the detention of some Nigerian female pilgrims.

Vice President Namadi Sambo gave the ultimatum when he summoned the Saudi Arabian Ambassador to Nigeria, Khaled Abdrabuh, to his office.

The over 750 Nigerian female pilgrims in Saudi Arabia adjudged by the authority to be without male companion (Muharram) have been detained in Jeddah and Madinah.

Mr Sambo expressed the country’s displeasure over the treatment being meted out to the Nigerian pilgrims performing this year’s pilgrimage in the holy land.

He said reports available to him suggested that only Nigerian pilgrims were being subjected to such dehumanising treatment.

Mr Sambo, therefore, requested the Saudi Arabian authorities to apply caution and flexibility to allow the pilgrims undertake their sacred religious duties.

“Should the Saudi authorities not desire our pilgrims to perform this year’s Hajj, they should let the country know.”

He said that no reasonable and responsible government would sit and fold its arms while its citizens are manhandled.

The vice president, therefore, requested the Ambassador to do all within his powers to ensure that the issues were resolved within 24 hours, and the outcome communicated to him.

Mr Abdrabuh however said that Nigeria was not being treated in isolation, and that all the countries participating in the Hajj were affected.

He said that the issue of Muharram for female pilgrims was not a new policy, but that the Saudi government decided to be flexible in the past.

He revealed that the Ministries of Hajj, Foreign Affairs and Interior and the governor of Mecca were meeting in Riyadh, the country’s capital, with a view to resolving the impasse speedily.

171 women deported

171 female pilgrims from Taraba and Katsina States, who were refused entry into Saudi Arabia, have been deported to Nigeria.

The pilgrims arrived the Malam Aminu Kano international airport in Kano on board a max air aircraft with registration number 5N MM at about 6pm on Wednesday.

An official of the Kano State Pilgrims’ Welfare Board, who does not want to be named, said that the women are being camped in the state’s hajj camp.

According to the National Hajj Commission, 908 female Nigerian pilgrims were refused entry into Saudi Arabia breaching the escort rules for female pilgrims under Saudi law.