Our Government Took Painful Decisions To Invest For Prosperous Future – Buhari

A file photo of President Muhammadu Buhari

 

President Muhammadu Buhari has explained how his administration took painful decisions to invest for a prosperous future of all Nigerians.

Speaking on Tuesday in Saudi Arabia at an investment conference organised by the Future Investment Initiative Institute, the Nigerian leader said upon assuming office in 2015, his government understood the importance on inclusive policies for sustainable peace.

“In the past six years, our government took very painful but necessary decisions to invest for a long-term prosperous future knowing very well that this will come with short term pains,” the President was quoted as saying via a statement issued by his media aide, Garba Shehu.

“Nigeria’s population today exceeds 200 million people. Some 70 percent are under 35 years old. When we came into government in 2015, we were quick to realise that long-term peace and stability of our country is dependent on having inclusive and humane policies.”

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He said the Federal Government will keep encouraging public and private initiatives that increase investments in health, education, capacity building, youth empowerment, gender equality, poverty eradication, climate change and food security.

This, according to him, will go a long way in reenergizing the global economy in a post COVID-19 era.

Buhari attributed the growing social unrest to inequalities and unfair policies that exclude majority from opportunities for participation, admonishing world leaders and global investors to prioritize on inclusive and humane policies.

Reacting to the theme of the summit, ‘Investing in Humanity’, President Buhari said the Nigerian perspective remains a focus on people oriented development policies, with diversification from oil to more inclusive sectors such as agriculture, ICT and mining;  tackling corruption, insecurity and climate change and introducing Social Investment Programmes.

Buhari commended the organizers of this year’s summit for the foresight to look at “investment”, not only from a profitability and wealth accumulation point of view, but also bringing prosperity to humanity in general.

The humane approach to investment, he said, is the only way to address the global challenges we face, especially in the Covid-19 era.

The President noted that investment in humanity must also take into consideration the effects of debt burden on nations, which had been worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic.

He added, “We cannot invest in humanity without relieving our countries from the crushing effects of the debt burden especially when the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the risk of deepening the debt portfolio of poor countries.

“These nations increasingly allocate more and more resources towards external debt servicing and repayment at the expense of the health, education and other services that contribute to the overall wellbeing of their population.”

Describing the summit as a credible forum for interaction between the public and private sectors, to explore ways of advancing economic growth, development and global prosperity, the President said Nigeria’s diversification efforts continue to yield results, particularly in agriculture.

President Buhari told the gathering of world leaders, global investors and asset managers that the oil sector was already undergoing a reform that would make it more attractive and inclusive.

“Two months ago, I signed the Petroleum Industry Act. The Act will serve as a catalyst to liberalize our petroleum sector. It has introduced a number of incentives such as tax holidays, 100 percent ownership, zero interest loans and easy transfer of funds. In addition, we have highly skilled in-country workforce and a large domestic market.

“In mining, we have also made several opportunities available for investors.  Nigeria is a country rich in minerals from gold, iron ore, tin, zinc, cobalt, lithium, limestone, phosphate, bitumen and many others. We have made the licensing process easier and also made extensive investments in rail and transportation.

“Infrastructure investments represent significant potential for investors in Nigeria.  We have opportunities in seaports, rail, toll roads, real estate, renewable energy and many others. We have created several institutions that are available to co-invest with you in Nigeria.

“We have the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority and more recently, I approved the creation of Infrastructure Corporation of Nigeria.  These institutions are run as independent world class institutions to make investments in the country and are available to co-invest with you,” he further explained.

The Nigerian leader urged more interest in infrastructure such as healthcare and education, which “present enormous opportunities for investors in a country our size.”

President Buhari Arrives Saudi Arabia For Future Investment Summit

File Photo of President Muhammadu Buhari coming down from the Presidential jet

 

President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday arrived Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, for the Future Investment Initiative Institute conference.

The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu announced in a statement that Buhari arrived Saudi Arabia at 11:50 pm on Monday.

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“The President was received at King Khalid International Airport by the Deputy Governor of Riyadh, Prince Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Abdulaziz,” Shehu added.

President Buhari, alongside other world leaders, will participate in the opening ceremony of the event on Tuesday and the three-day plenary sessions focused on the theme for the 5th edition of the summit, “Invest in Humanity.”

President Buhari To Participate In Investment Summit In Saudi Arabia

File photo of President Muhammadu Buhari

 

President Muhammadu Buhari will on Monday, October 25, 2021, depart for Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to participate in the investment conference organised by the Future Investment Initiative Institute.

This was disclosed in a statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the President, Media & Publicity, Garba Shehu.

The President will be joined at the 5th edition of the flagship investment event by business executives from Nigeria, bankers, Captains of industry and energy experts to discuss issues on the future of investments across the globe.

The three-day event, with the theme, INVESTMENT IN HUMANITY, which will host global executives and asset managers, will deliberate on progress and prosperity with energy; true final frontiers in investments; science in action; and impact of climate change on communities among others.

President Buhari will perform the lesser Hajj in Madina & Makka before returning to the country on Friday.

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Among those set to accompany him on the trip are the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ibrahim Pantami, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Amb Zubairu Dada, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, National Security Adviser, Maj. Gen Babagana Monguno, Director General of National Intelligence Agency, Amb. Ahmed Rufai Abubakar, Managing Director of Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority, Uche Orji and Chairman, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa.

Some participants from the private sector include: Alhaji Mohammed Indimi, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Tope Shonubi, Wale Tinubu, Alhaji Abdulsamad Rabiu, Hassan Usman, Omoboyode Olusanya, Abubakar Suleiman, Herbert Wigwe and Leo Stan Ekeh.

Top Oil Exporter Saudi Arabia Targets Zero Carbon Emissions By 2060

A handout picture provided by the Saudi Royal Palace shows Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman delivering a speech addressing the Saudi Green Initiative opening ceremony in the capital Riyadh on October 23, 2021. BANDAR AL-JALOUD / AFP / Saudi Royal Palace
A handout picture provided by the Saudi Royal Palace shows Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman delivering a speech addressing the Saudi Green Initiative opening ceremony in the capital Riyadh on October 23, 2021. BANDAR AL-JALOUD / AFP / Saudi Royal Palace

 

Top crude exporter Saudi Arabia will aim to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2060, its de facto ruler said on Saturday, days before the COP26 global climate summit.

The kingdom, one of the world’s biggest polluters, said it would also join a global effort to cut methane emissions by 30 percent by 2030.

The UN says more than 130 countries have set or are considering a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050, an objective it says is “imperative” to safeguard a liveable climate.

“I announce today Saudi Arabia’s target to reach net zero emissions by 2060,” Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told the “Saudi Green Initiative” forum.

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“I am pleased to launch initiatives in the energy sector that will reduce carbon emissions by 278 million tonnes annually by 2030, thus voluntarily more than doubling the target announced,” Prince Mohammed said.

“We also announce the kingdom’s accession to the Global Methane Pledge.”

A statement said Saudi Arabia would “contribute to cutting global methane emissions by 30 percent by 2030, as part of its commitment to deliver a cleaner, greener future”.

The 2060 target would “enable us to have a smooth and viable transition, without risking economic or social impacts”, Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said.

COP26 President Alok Sharma welcomed the announcement.

“I hope this landmark announcement… will galvanise ambition from others ahead of #COP26,” Sharma tweeted, adding he was looking forward to seeing more details on the Saudi plan.

Aramco 2050 target

Shortly after, energy giant Saudi Aramco said it committed to being a net zero enterprise by 2050.

“Saudi Aramco will achieve an ambition of being also a net zero from our operation by 2050,” Aramco chief executive Amin Nasser said at the forum.

“We understand that the road will be complex, the transition will have its challenges, but we are confident we can meet them and accelerate our efforts to a low emission future.”

Saudi Arabia is estimated to emit about 600 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year — more than France and slightly less than Germany.

The year 2050 has become a focus for carbon neutrality, defined as achieving a balance between emitting carbon and absorbing carbon from the atmosphere.

As COP26 approaches, a string of countries have pledged to aim for net zero emissions by 2050, and global airlines and banks are also targeting the mid-century goal.

UN chief Antonio Guterres said Friday the current climate situation was “a one-way ticket for disaster”, stressing the need to “avoid a failure” at COP26 in Glasgow.

Held between October 31 and November 12, the gathering is seen as a crucial step in setting worldwide emission targets to slow global warming.

Tree-planting drive

In March, Saudi Arabia unveiled a campaign to tackle climate change and reduce carbon emissions, including a plan to plant billions of trees in the coming decades.

The OPEC kingpin aims to reduce emissions by generating half of its energy from renewables by 2030, Prince Mohammed said at the time.

The prince announced on Saturday that the first phase would include planting more than 450 million trees and the rehabilitation of eight million hectares (nearly 20 million acres) of degraded land.

Saudi Arabia also said it would designate new “protected areas”.

The move brings “the total protected areas in the kingdom to more than 30 percent of its total area”, Prince Mohammed said, adding the first set of green initiatives would cost more than 700 billion riyals ($186.6 billion).

Princess Reema bint Bandar al-Saud, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States, said the land conservation move was critical.

“We want to diversify our economy. Hospitality and tourism are key to that, but so is preserving our environment,” she said at the forum.

Saudi Arabia currently draws on oil and natural gas to both meet its own fast-growing power demand and desalinate its water — which consumes huge quantities of oil.

The initiatives come as energy giant Saudi Aramco, the kingdom’s cash cow, faces scrutiny from investors over its emissions.

In January, Bloomberg News reported that Aramco excluded emissions generated from many of its refineries and petrochemical plants in its overall carbon disclosures to investors.

It added that if those facilities are included, the company’s self-reported carbon footprint could nearly double, adding as much as 55 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent to its annual tally –- roughly the emissions produced by Portugal.

AFP

Newcastle Ask Fans Not To Wear Arab-Style Clothing After Saudi Takeover

(FILES) In this file photo taken on August 13, 2017 St James’ Park stadium, home ground of Newcastle United, is pictured in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, north east England, ahead of the English Premier League football match between Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur. PARNABY / AFP)

 

Newcastle have asked fans celebrating the club’s Saudi-backed takeover not to wear Arab-style clothing to matches in case it causes offence.

Some supporters wore traditional robes and others donned headdresses for Sunday’s Premier League clash with Tottenham, the Magpies’ first game under their new owners.

The £305 million ($420 million) Newcastle takeover was rubber-stamped by the Premier League earlier this month.

“Newcastle United is kindly asking supporters to refrain from wearing traditional Arabic clothing or Middle East-inspired head coverings at matches if they would not ordinarily wear such attire,” said a club statement on Wednesday.

“A number of supporters have recently attended St James’ Park wearing associated head coverings and robes, marking the takeover of the club by the Public Investment Fund (PIF), PCP Capital Partners and RB Sports & Media.”

The club said nobody among the new ownership group was offended by the attire, acknowledging it was a gesture that was “positive and welcoming in its intent”.

“However, there remains the possibility that dressing this way is culturally inappropriate and risks causing offence to others,” the statement added.

“All visitors to the club are, as always, encouraged to wear whatever is the norm for their own culture or religion, continuing to reflect the broad and rich multicultural communities and groups from which the club proudly draws its support.”

Earlier on Wednesday, Newcastle announced that manager Steve Bruce had left the club by “mutual consent” less than two weeks after the takeover.

Bruce, whose departure was widely expected, took charge of his 1,000th match as a manager in Sunday’s 3-2 defeat by Tottenham — his only game under the new owners.

Northeast side Newcastle are second from bottom of the Premier League and without a league win this season.

Two Decades After 9/11, Saudi Arabia Seeks Softer Image

(FILES) In this file photo taken on June 24, 2018, Hala Hussein Alireza, a newly-licensed Saudi motorist, drives a car in the Red Sea coastal city of Jeddah. (Photo by Amer HILABI / AFP)

 

 

Two decades after Saudi Arabian militants masterminded and carried out the September 11 attacks, the desert kingdom is striving for change in a reform drive aimed at updating its ultra-conservative image.

Women can drive and cinemas have reopened in the “new” Saudi Arabia under crown prince and de facto ruler Mohammed bin Salman, among many modernising reforms that some believe can be linked to the trauma of 9/11.

The initiatives are “one of the long-term consequences” of the worst terrorist attack on US soil, Yasmine Farouk of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace told AFP.

Fifteen Saudis were among the 19 hijackers in the plane attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, which left nearly 3,000 dead and were plotted by Saudi-born Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

The kingdom, a long-time American ally, denied any involvement but faced harsh US rhetoric over its social and education systems that critics said promoted extremism.

More pressure could follow in the coming months after US President Joe Biden ordered the declassification of secret documents from a US investigation into the attacks.

Biden was responding to pressure from families of some of those killed on 9/11 who have long argued that the classified documents may contain evidence that the Saudi government had links to the hijackers.

In a statement issued on Wednesday by its Washington embassy, Saudi Arabia said it “welcomes” Biden’s move.

It said it “can only reiterate its longstanding support for the full declassification” of any documents with the hope they “will end the baseless allegations against the kingdom once and for all”.

– Rise of MBS –
Saudi Arabia’s austere image was rooted in the strict Wahhabi interpretation of Islam, a puritanical doctrine it was accused of exporting around the world.

The country, which houses Islam’s holiest sites and is the world’s biggest oil exporter, at first resisted pressure for reforms.

But the rise of Prince Mohammed, or “MBS”, who was named crown prince in 2017, and the need to diversify as demand cools for oil has brought a string of economic, social and religious changes.

Prince Mohammed has sought to position himself as a champion of “moderate” Islam, even as his international reputation took a hit from the 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

The kingdom’s heavily criticised ban on women driving was lifted in 2018, mixed-gender music concerts are now allowed and businesses can remain open during the five daily prayers.

Saudi Arabia has also neutered its once-feared religious police, who would chase people out of malls to go and pray and berated anyone seen mingling with the opposite sex.

The Gulf country, a destination for millions of Muslim pilgrims each year, has also flung open its door for non-religious tourism.

The kingdom “is a profoundly different and better place”, Saudi government adviser Ali Shihabi told AFP.

“The (reforms) have dismantled the structures and networks of radical Islam within the country.

“Terrorists planning an outrage similar to 9/11 will have to go somewhere other than the kingdom to fish for recruits, since the pool of Saudi youth indoctrinated in reactionary Islam is rapidly shrinking.”

But some Saudis warn that rapid and sweeping reforms carry the risk of a backlash, with popular sentiment hard to gauge when authorities continue to crack down on any opposition or activists.

– ‘Enormous task’ –
In 2019, a Yemeni resident went on a stabbing spree during a live musical in Riyadh and, in another incident that year, a Saudi man shot and killed three people at a Florida naval base.

Farouk said it was in many ways a “new Saudi Arabia”, but warned the reforms are “not sufficient” to eradicate extremism.

“They don’t involve a dialogue with the society that would address the extremist arguments,” she said.

“A dialogue is something very important to reach the objectives and not just imposing changes on people.”

Reform must focus on the educational system that has long been associated with Wahhabism, said Kristin Diwan of the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington.

“Reforming an entire educational system — curriculum, instructors, institutions — is an enormous task akin to remaking society itself,” she told AFP.

The kingdom is currently reviewing textbooks that refer to non-Muslims as “kuffar” or non-believers, while the education ministry has announced it is working on a new curriculum that promotes “the values of freedom of thought and tolerance”.

In 2018, Prince Mohammed told CBS television that he aims to remove all “extremist” elements from the education system, in which hard-line Islamists were widely employed.

“There is no question that the intent is there, but effective execution will take time,” said Diwan.

Nigeria, Saudi Arabia Seek Partnership On Drug War

National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, (NDLEA), and Saudi Arabia’s General Directorate Of Narcotics Control partner to fight drug abuse

  

The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, (NDLEA), and Saudi Arabia’s General Directorate Of Narcotics Control (GDNC) have agreed to strengthen their partnership in the fight against trafficking of illicit drugs between the two countries.

This is according to a communique issued on Wednesday by NDLEA’s Director of Media and Advocacy, Femi Babafemi.

According to the statement, this partnership was the high point of discussions between the Chairman/Chief Executive of NDLEA, Brig. Gen. Mohamed Buba Marwa (Retd) and a representative of GDNC, Colonel Naser Hajid Al Otaibi, in Abuja on Monday and Tuesday.

While welcoming the official official, Gen. Marwa thanked Saudi authorities for their past support.

He said considering the need for an enduring partnership, “we propose a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on cooperation between the two agencies in combating trafficking in narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances, and its precursors to GDNC for consideration and signing just like we recently did with the Drug Law Enforcement Agency in the Gambia”.

The NDLEA boss reiterated Nigeria’s resolve to fighting drug abuse and trafficking, explaining that President Muhammadu Buhari is behind the agency in its bid to stamp out the menace.

He asked the Saudi government for support especially in the areas of technical assistance and donation of equipment such as scanners, forensic laboratories and the building of rehabilitation centres.


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The NDLEA boss believes a strong partnership with Saudi Arabia will boost the country’s fight against drug abuse and trafficking.

 

On his part, the GDNC representative invited Gen. Marwa to visit the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia so as to deepen discussions on various aspects of collaboration between the NDLEA and the GDNC.

The NDLEA Chairman also accepted the invitation with the hope that it will provide the opportunity to sign the MoU on the partnership between the two anti-narcotic agencies.

Saudi Arabia Denies Pegasus Spyware Allegations

File Photo: Wikipedia

 

Saudi Arabia has dismissed as “baseless” allegations that it used Israeli-supplied Pegasus malware to spy on journalists and human rights activists.

“A Saudi official denied the recent allegations reported in media outlets that an entity in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia used software to monitor phone calls,” the official SPA news agency reported late Wednesday.

“The source added that such allegations are untrue and that KSA’s policies do not condone such practices.

More to follow . . .

Saudi Arabia Stages Second Scaled-Down Hajj Of COVID-19 Era

Muslim pilgrims circumambulate around the Kaaba, Islam’s holiest shrine, at the Grand mosque in the holy Saudi city of Mecca, on July 17, 2021 during the annual hajj pilgrimage. (Photo by Fayez Nureldine / AFP)

 

Hajj pilgrims streamed out of the holy city of Mecca towards Mina on Sunday, the second day of a massively scaled-down version of Islam’s greatest pilgrimage, held in the shadow of coronavirus for the second year running.

Authorities in Saudi Arabia are only allowing 60,000 fully vaccinated citizens and residents to take part, far from the vast crowds of some 2.5 million pilgrims who descend on Mecca in normal times.

Health authorities confirmed at a briefing late Sunday that not a single coronavirus case had been reported amongst the pilgrims.

Starting Saturday, groups of the faithful performed the “tawaf” at Mecca’s Grand Mosque, circling the Kaaba, a large cubic structure draped in golden-embroidered black cloth towards which Muslims around the world pray.

After that, they made their way to Mina, where they were to spend the night. An official confirmed on Sunday that all the pilgrims were now in Mina.

Mina sits in a narrow valley surrounded by rocky mountains, some five kilometres (three miles) from the Grand Mosque, and is transformed each year into a vast encampment for pilgrims.

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Pilgrims were brought there Sunday on buses which were only half-filled to respect social distancing rules, and authorities provided 3,000 electric cars to transport the elderly and those with limited mobility.

“We have applied social distancing inside the camps where there are four pilgrims in each room. We have put barriers between each bed to apply social distancing,” tour operator Hadi Fouad told AFP.

“For the common areas at the camp, like the prayer area and the cafeteria, we have assigned a security company whose guards are spread throughout the camp to make sure there is no crowding.”

– Golden ticket –

In the high point of the hajj, worshippers will on Monday climb Mount Arafat.

Also known as the “Mount of Mercy”, it is the site where it is believed that the Prophet Mohammed delivered his final sermon. Worshippers will pray and recite the Koran there for several hours.

After descending the following day, they will gather pebbles and perform the symbolic “stoning of the devil”.

The hajj, usually one of the world’s largest annual religious gatherings, is one of the five pillars of Islam and must be undertaken by all Muslims with the means at least once in their lives.

This year’s pilgrimage is larger than the pared-down version staged in 2020, but is drastically smaller than in normal times, creating resentment among Muslims abroad who are barred once again.

Participants were chosen from more than 558,000 applicants through an online vetting system, with the event confined to fully vaccinated adults aged 18-65 with no chronic illnesses.

– ‘A privilege’ –

“I thank God that we received approval to come, even though we did not expect it because of the small number of pilgrims,” said Abdulaziz bin Mahmoud, an 18-year-old Saudi.

Saddaf Ghafour, a 40-year-old Pakistani travelling with her friend, was among the women making the pilgrimage without a male “guardian”, a requirement recently scrapped.

“It is a privilege to perform hajj among a very limited number of pilgrims,” she said.

Saudi Arabia has so far recorded more than 509,000 coronavirus infections, including over 8,000 deaths. Some 20 million vaccine doses have been administered in the country of over 34 million people.

The hajj, which typically packs large crowds into congested religious sites, could have been a super-spreader event for the virus.

But the hajj ministry has said it is working on the “highest levels of health precautions” in light of the pandemic and the emergence of new variants.

Pilgrims are being divided into groups of just 20 “to restrict any exposure to only those 20, limiting the spread of infection”, ministry undersecretary Mohammad al-Bijawi said.

Aside from strict social distancing measures, authorities have introduced a “smart hajj card” to allow contact-free access to camps, hotels and the buses to ferry pilgrims around religious sites.

The hajj went ahead last year on the smallest scale in modern history.

Authorities initially said that only 1,000 pilgrims would be allowed, although local media said up to 10,000 eventually took part.

This year, “public health teams are monitoring the health status of pilgrims around the clock upon their arrival in Mecca,” said Sari Asiri, director of the hajj and umrah department at the health ministry.

Anyone found to be infected would be taken to isolation facilities, he added.

AFP

Saudi To Allow 60,000 Vaccinated Residents To Perform Hajj

Photo used to illustrate the story. Worshippers performing al-Fajr prayer at the Kaaba, Islam’s holiest shrine, at the Grand Mosque complex in Saudi Arabia’s holy city of Mecca. PHOTO: STR / AFP

 

Saudi Arabia announced Saturday it will allow 60,000 vaccinated residents of the kingdom to perform the annual hajj, state media reported.

The hajj ministry said this year’s pilgrimage would be “open for nationals and residents of the kingdom, limited to 60,000 pilgrims”, according to the official Saudi Press Agency.

The pilgrimage, scheduled to be held at the end of July, would be limited to those who have been vaccinated and are below 65 years of age with no chronic illnesses, it said.

It will be the second year in a row that the kingdom hosts a downscaled hajj amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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The hajj — a must for able-bodied Muslims at least once in their lifetime — typically packs millions of pilgrims into congested religious sites and could be a major source of contagion.

Only up to 10,000 Muslims took part last year, a far cry from the 2.5 million who participated in the five-day annual pilgrimage in 2019.

In a relaxation of coronavirus curbs last October, Saudi Arabia opened the Grand Mosque for prayers for the first time in seven months and partially resumed the all-year-round umrah pilgrimage.

The limit on umrah pilgrims is 20,000 a day, with a total of 60,000 worshippers allowed to perform daily prayers at the mosque.

The umrah usually attracts millions of Muslims from across the globe each year. Authorities said the umrah would be allowed to return to full capacity once the threat of the pandemic has abated.

The revered Black Stone in the Kaaba — which is customary but not mandatory to touch during the pilgrimage — remains out of reach.

 

– ‘Highest precautions’ –

“In light of what the whole world is witnessing with the coronavirus pandemic… and the emergence of new variants, the relevant authorities have continued to monitor the global health situation,” the hajj ministry said Saturday.

“Considering the large crowds that perform hajj, spending long periods of time in multiple and specific places… required the highest levels of health precautions,” it added in the statement carried by SPA.

A scaled-down hajj represents a major loss of revenue for the kingdom, already reeling from the twin shocks of the virus-induced slowdown and a plunge in oil prices.

The hajj and the year-round umrah pilgrimages together rake in some $12 billion (10.3 billion euros) annually.

Last year, the foreign press were barred from the hajj, usually a huge global media event.

Saudi Arabia has so far recorded more than 460,000 coronavirus infections, including 7,536 deaths.

The health ministry says it has administered more than 15 million coronavirus vaccine doses, in a country with a population of over 34 million.

Hosting the hajj is a matter of prestige for Saudi rulers, for whom the custodianship of Islam’s holiest sites is their most powerful source of political legitimacy.

But a series of deadly disasters over the years, including a 2015 stampede that killed up to 2,300 worshippers, has prompted criticism of the kingdom’s management of the pilgrimage.

AFP

Saudi Executes Three Soldiers For ‘High Treason’

Medina, Qatif, Saudi Arabia
Map of Saudi Arabia

 

Saudi Arabia on Saturday executed three soldiers for “high treason”, the defence ministry said.

The soldiers were found guilty of “the crime of high treason in cooperation with the enemy” in a way that threatens the kingdom and its military interests, the ministry said in a statement published by the official Saudi Press Agency.

The statement named the three soldiers — Mohammed bin Ahmed, Shaher bin Issa and Hamoud bin Ibrahim — without identifying who they were accused of colluding with.

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The announcement comes as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the 35-year-old heir to the throne, consolidates his grip on power and as a Saudi-led military campaign intensifies in neighbouring Yemen.

Prince Mohammed is already viewed as the country’s de facto ruler, controlling all the major levers of government, from defence to the economy.

He holds the title of defence minister, while his younger brother Prince Khalid bin Salman is the deputy.

Over the past three years, the crown prince has mounted a sweeping crackdown on critics and rivals, with the imprisonment of prominent royal family members, business tycoons, clerics and activists.

In March last year, Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, a brother of King Salman, and the monarch’s nephew Prince Mohammed bin Nayef were detained, multiple sources said, as the crown prince sought to stamp out traces of internal dissent.

Saudi authorities have not publicly commented on their ongoing detention.

Riyadh led a military coalition into Yemen in March 2015 to prop up the internationally recognised government, but it has struggled to oust the Iran-backed Huthi rebels.

It has also faced a surge in missile and drone attacks against the kingdom.

Fighting has also intensified for the key Yemeni region of Marib, with 53 pro-government and Huthi rebel fighters dead in the past 24 hours, loyalist military officials said Saturday.

The Huthis have been trying to seize oil-rich Marib, the government’s last significant pocket of territory in the north, since February.

AFP

Nigerian Returnees From Saudi Arabia Allege Abandonment By FG

Some of the Nigerian returnees from Saudi Arabia. Credit: NIDCOM

 

The latest batch of Nigerian returnees from Saudi Arabia has alleged that the country’s consulate in Saudi Arabia is returning more citizens of the neighboring Niger Republic than Nigerians who are stuck in deportation camps in the Arabian country.

The affected Nigerians who served mostly as house helps in Saudi Arabia also accused their former bosses of sexually molesting and maltreating them while in their service.

“They are not Nigerians, they are Nigeriens. Nigerians are there and they are suffering, I was there for two months plus in the deportation camp,” a visibly angry Nigerian told journalists in Abuja.

Another returnee, who spoke in the Hausa language, lamented the dehumanising treatment they were subjected to in Saudi Arabia.

She said, “My suffering started from my arrival in Saudi Arabia. I was sad because my education couldn’t help me in my country. I was in my master’s house doing my chores.”

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But reacting, the Nigerian government through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs called for calm while addressing the allegations.

The Consular-General in the Ministry, Ambassador Akinremi Bolaji, said the Federal Government would launch a probe into the incident.

“I am telling you, that with the permission of the Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs, what you have said here will not go uninvestigated,” he said.

“Now I will meet with those who have said this  and tell us specific mention, and if you have names, let us know.”

Since January 2021, the Federal Government has evacuated over 3,000 people from Saudi Arabia, with last week witnessing the return of over 1,000 people.

Although some of the returnees have tested positive for COVID-19, they have been receiving adequate treatment because they are asymptomatic.

Accusations of abuse and maltreatment of Nigerians in foreign countries have been rife in recent years.

A viral video from India recently alleged that a Nigerian was killed in India, prompting protests and calls for intervention from the Nigerian government.