Posted by News Express, Lagos | 27 September 2012 | 5,580 times
Nigeria has temporarily suspended the airlifting of pilgrims to Saudi Arabia for this year’s Hajj in Mecca following the refusal of the Saudi authorities to yield ground on the case of the detained 1,000 Nigerian female pilgrims.
Despite high-powered intervention by the Nigerian Government, the Saudi authorities last night started deporting the pilgrims for allegedly landing in the Muslim holy land without their muharram or male companions who must be their husband or relatives.
In response, the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) late yesterday announced temporary suspension of all Hajj flights “for the next 48 hours” as efforts continue to solve the problem.
The decision to temporarily suspend airlifting of pilgrims was reached “after consultations with stakeholders,” said NAHCON’s National Commissioner in charge of operations, Alhaji Abdullahi Muhammad said last night, according to reports from Abuja, the Nigerian capital.
Before the formal announcement by NAHCON, the Kano State Pilgrim Welfare Board had on its own suspended further airlifting of intending pilgrims to Saudi Arabia, as announced by its Executive Secretary, Alhaji Laminu Rabiu.
Calling the bluff of the Nigerian Government, the Saudi authorities had last night deported 171 of the Nigerian female pilgrims detained at the King Abdul-Azziz International Airport, Jedda and Madina.
The deportation, through the Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano, was effected even as
Vice President Namadi Sambo was meeting with Khaled O.Y. Abdrabuh, the Saudi Arabian Ambassador to Nigeria, in a desperate bid to resolve the impasse.
*Photo, courtesy ThisDay, shows some of the deported pilgrims alighting from the aircraft that brought them back home.
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