2012 HAJJ: Saudi Ignores Nigeria Govt Ultimatum, Deports Another 510 Nigerians, Blocks Nigerian Envoy From Detained Pilgrims

Saudi authorities yesterday [Sept 27] denied Nigeria’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Alhaji Abubakar Shehu Bunu and other consular officials, access to the detained Nigerian female pilgrims at the King Abdulazeez International Airport, Jeddah, a source at the Nigerian Embassy in Riyadh told Daily Trust last night.

The source who spoke to Daily Trust’s correspondent on phone said that the envoy, in company of six other staffs of the embassy including his Consul General Ambassador Ahmad Umar Yakasai, was at the airport for more than 50 minutes pleading with the Saudi authorities to allow him meet with the pilgrims to no avail.

This happened even as diplomatic efforts are on to resolve the issues surrounding the detention and subsequent deportation of hundreds of Nigerian female pilgrims by the Saudi Arabian authorities on grounds that they travelled to the Holy land without their individual muharram.

Vice President Namadi Sambo had met with the Saudi Arabian Ambassador to Nigeria Mr. Khalid Abdrabuh on Wednesday in Abuja and the Speaker of the House of Representatives Rep Aminu Waziri Tambuwal is leading a federal government delegation to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia today to try to resolve the issue.

Ambassador Bunu had gone to the airport to assess the condition of the pilgrims and to also console them but the officials denied him allegedly on the orders of Saudi immigration controller in charge of the airport Mr Khala Sallah, the source said.

Meanwhile the Saudis continued the deportation of the over 1000 Nigerian female pilgrims being detained at the Abdul-Aziz International Airport, Jeddah and Madina with 612 affected flown into Nigeria through Kano and Sokoto.

Daily Trust said the envoy was also at the airport yesterday to bid farewell to the pilgrims who were flown back yesterday but the Saudi immigration officials refused to recognize his official status as a full-fledged ambassador representing Nigeria in Saudi Arabia.

A total of 509 female and one male pilgrim arrived at the Malam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano last night, while earlier in the day, 102 female pilgrims arrived at the Sokoto International Airport.

The 510 who came in through Kano were on board a Meridian Air plane that landed at the airport around 9 pm. They were from Kano, Jigawa and Katsina states.
Jigawa State Amirul Hajj and Emir of Kazaure Alhaji Najib Hussaini Adamu and Executive Secretary of Kano Pilgrims Welfare Agency Alhaji Laminu Rabiu were at the airport to receive the deported pilgrims with some Islamic clerics openly cajoling them to take heart and regard what had befallen them as an act of God.

Chairman of the Sokoto State Pilgrims Welfare Agency, Muktari Maigona confirmed that 102 female pilgrims returned to Sokoto from Saudi Arabia.
Speaking to Daily Trust during a telephone conversation, Mr. Uba Mana, Head of Media National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) said the matter is being addressed at the highest level of the government but confirmed that Tambuwal will be leading Nigerian delegation to Saudi Arabia over the same issue.

Tambuwal met with the Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to Nigeria Mr. Khalid Abdrabuh in Abuja yesterday during which the envoy said the matter would be resolved in the next 24 hours.

Abdrabuh maintained that Nigerians were not singled out for maltreatment by his country as other female pilgrims from other countries were also screened.

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