Northern Nigerian Breaking News

House of Reps investigates Hajj pilgrims’ alleged maltreatment

The House of Representatives has ordered a detailed investigation into anomalies that characterised the trips of Nigerian Hajj pilgrims to Saudi Arabia this year.

The order for a probe followed the adoption of a motion, titled: “Need to Investigate the Untold Hardship Faced by Nigerian Pilgrims at the Recently Concluded 2023 Hajj,” sponsored by Honourable Ahmed Idris on Thursday.

It could be recalled that 14 pilgrims died during this year’s Hajj.

Giving the breakdown on Sunday in Makkah during the post-Arafat review session, the head of the Nigerian medical team for the pilgrimage, Dr Usman Galadima, said seven pilgrims died during the pre-Arafat period.

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He disclosed that one casualty was from  Plateau State; two from Kaduna; two from Osun; one from Borno; one from Yobe; one from the Federal Capital Territory; one from Benue; while Lagos had one.

The House noted that a total of 95,000 Nigerians went for Hajj pilgrimage this year.

Similarly many Nigerian pilgrims had complained of inadequate tents for their accommodation as well as poor feeding in Mina where they spent five days for hajj rites.

Although the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) has demanded a refund from the Saudi firm, Muttawwif, which handled the camping tents and the feeding of pilgrims in Mina.

The company is responsible for the welfare of African non-Arabs on pilgrimage in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Appreciation

Idris told the House that there were several public officials who had no tent and were made to sleep in unhealthy places and conditions.

He said the agency mandated to cater to the pilgrims’ affairs was not proactive in ameliorating the plight of Nigerian Hajj pilgrims.

“We are aware that Nigerian pilgrims were subjected to untold hardships during the Hajj exercise from the inability of some airlines (such as Arik) to lift pilgrims due to lack of aircraft; lack of adequate tent accommodation at Mina and Arafat; substandard tents with unhealthy living conditions and environment; lack of proper medical attention to pilgrims in cases of emergency; lack of proper transportation logistics for Nigerian pilgrims; Nigerians being made to miss their flights due to stringent bottlenecks regarding withholding of their  passports; and inability to secure airport slots for Nigerian airline operators for lifting of Nigerian pilgrims from Saudi Arabia back to the country and many others.

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“VIP pilgrims were made to pay about $5,000 for VIP tents and despite this exorbitant amount, pilgrims were stranded while others got tents of lesser value than what they paid for.

“Some tour operators perpetrated the worst form of unprofessionalism by failing to provide services promised to pilgrims in terms of accommodation, tent, feeding or transportation.

“It is disturbing that there was the absence of emergency medical services for sick pilgrims in distress at Mina camp as many distressed patients could not be attended to due to restrictions of ambulance access to the camp,” he said.

After adopting the motion, the House mandated the Committee on Pilgrims Affairs, when constituted, to conduct the investigation and report back within four weeks for further legislative action.

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It also mandated the Committee on Legislative Compliance, when constituted, to ensure implementation.

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