Sunday, 30 September 2012

‘Deportation of female pilgrims gulped over N1bn’ - experts say

An estimated N1 billion may have been lost as a result of the deportation of Nigerian female pilgrims from Saudi Arabia, experts have said.

This is coming on the heels of accusation by the Nigerian envoy in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Alhaji Abubakar  Shehu Bunu, who said that the authorities in the holy land had allegedly violated the Geneva Convention when they blocked him and his team from reaching the distressed female pilgrims at the airports.


Bunu, who could not hide his anger, told the Voice of America (VOA) Hausa Service in an interview monitored in Kaduna at the weekend that it was unfortunate that the Saudi authorities denied them access to the female pilgrims while they were in detention at the airports, which was a violation of the Geneva Convention that was soft on the women folk.

 However, a group, the Arewa Youth Forum, has called for the immediate resignation of the ambassador for alleged poor handling of affairs in the holy land and accused the United States of America (USA) of complicity in the unwarranted deportation of the Nigerian female pilgrims.

They said that since the USA was always behind Saudi Arabia and had enormous control over the major international organisations across the world, the Kingdom could trample upon the rights of Nigeria and Nigerians and remain unchallenged.

AYF also called for the immediate reorganisation of all state agencies handling hajj matters in Nigeria for not “being proactive” and advocated the injection of fresh blood into the system in line with the demands of modern times.

The AYF said from their investigation, over one billion naira might have been lost as a result of the deportation of the female pilgrims from Saudi Arabia to Nigeria and sought for adequate compensation for the distressed women.

According to AYF leader, Gambo Gujungu, hajj is a multi-billion dollar business and Nigeria had always been the favourites of Saudi traders, who he was sure, might not be happy with the current diplomatic row.

He, however, expressed delight that  reports emanating from the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) indicated that all the affected pilgrims would be taken care of and would not lose a kobo due to the problem encountered.

Ambassador Bunu had said in an interview that hard as they tried to convince the Saudis on the need to settle the matter amicably, they failed to respond in writing but were only giving verbal excuses.

The envoy said the Saudis stood their ground and only allowed  aged women to gain entry into the holy land.

He still expressed optimism that the relationship between Nigeria and Saudi Arabia would continue to flourish in spite of the diplomatic row.

On whether the Saudi authorities were skeptical that some of the women would defect after the pilgrimage, he explained that they had written a letter of undertaking that all the women would be returned to Nigeria after the hajj rituals but the Saudis did not agree.

Source: Tribune

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