The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Olugbenga A. Ashiru yesterday (Friday) 28th September 2012, in New York met with His Royal Highness, Prince Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, Acting Foreign Minister of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on the sidelines of the ongoing United Nations General Assembly.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs used the occasion of the meeting to register Nigeria’s strong objection to the treatment meted out to many Nigerian female pilgrims, who after fulfilling the visa requirements were denied entry to Saudi Arabia in order to perform Hajj, one of the five fundamental pillars of Islam.
Ashiru expressed Nigeria’s particular concern at the denial of consular access to the detained female pilgrims by both the Nigerian Ambassador and Consul-General in Saudi Arabia, which is in contravention of the Vienna Convention.
He also expressed the view that the action of the Saudi Authorities was not only unfortunate but did not truly reflect the historic friendly ties between the two nations.
He concluded by requesting the Saudi Authorities to immediately find an appropriate solution to the problem while ensuring that these intending pilgrims are treated with respect and dignity so that they can consummate their religious duties and obligations.
The Saudi Acting Foreign Minister, while expressing regrets at the development, informed that the denial of entry to unaccompanied female pilgrims to perform the Hajj was not a Saudi Arabian regulation but an Islamic requirement that all women must be accompanied by Muharrams.
He however informed that efforts are being made to find an immediate solution to the problem. Finally, he expressed the hope that Nigerian pilgrims will in future fully comply with this Islamic injunction in order to avoid such unpalatable consequences.
The Nigerian government, while calling for restraint on the part of those affected by the recent action of the Saudi government, wishes to assure Nigerians that all efforts are being made to find an early solution to this worrisome development. Government also reiterates its determination to protect the legitimate interests of its citizens abroad.