The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) has protested the incessant delays by Saudi Arabia to issue appropriate visas for its officials and others for the purpose of follow-up for hajj operations.
The commission in its 2015 Hajj report submitted to President Muhammadu Buhari also urged the federal government to facilitate the permanent presence of the commission’s staff in Saudi Arabia as Hajj attaches domiciled in Nigerian Consulate in Jeddah.
The report submitted to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Babachir David Lawal by the chairman of NAHCON Abdullahi Mukhtar Muhammad a fortnight ago said the Hajj attaches will ease the activities of the commission in Saudi Arabia.
“This is more necessary now due to introduction of the Saudi e-track which requires early planning and constant follow-up on each stage of hajj planning activities. In addition, it would assist in saving cost by eliminating need for frequent travelling to Saudi Arabia,” the report said.
The 2015 hajj recorded early hiccups due to the challenges of visa and harmonization of pilgrims’ biometrics and particulars, which led to protests by some state pilgrims welfare boards and private tour operators.
“The federal government through diplomatic means should make a case to Saudi Arabia to end the unnecessary delays in the issuance of appropriate visas to the officials from the commission, state pilgrim welfare bodies as well as owners of the licensed tour operators to visit Saudi Arabia for the purpose of making preparations and follow-up for the hajj,” the report added.
The commission in the report asked the government through the ministry of aviation to intervene to ensure that vital facilities including night landing instruments, fire cover, fuel storage, security scanners and staff are provided in airports that are deficient in such.
It cited Dutse, Bauchi, Gombe, Kebbi, Ilorin and Yola airports among those affected, urging the government to give them a deadline to upgrade the facilities to support full flight operations or have their permission for operating hajj flights cancelled.
Nigeria lost 280 of its pilgrims to the twin-tragedy of Makkah crane crash and the Mina stampede, six Nigerians died in the crane crash and 274 in the stampede with 43 other declared missing.