The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) has said that 50 female pilgrims have been repatriated to the country in the last 48 hours due to the absence of a male guardian (mahram).
A statement issued in Abuja on Monday and signed by Malam Uba Mana, the commission's head of media, the affected pilgrims were from Kebbi, Kaduna and Niger states. It said that the air carriers had been directed to return pilgrims without proper documentation.
It further said that NAHCON had successfully transported 3,786 pilgrims to Saudi Arabia since the resumption of the Hajj flight operations on Sunday. The carriers had operated eight flights into Saudi Arabia since Sunday, the statement said.
It also said that the success recorded was largely due to the directive to state pilgrims' welfare boards and agencies, to ensure that only female pilgrims who had the appropriate Mahrams were boarded.
Meanwhile, Saudi Embassy in Nigeria for the first time officially defended its action yesterday, saying the affected pilgrims did not have male companions.
Briefing journalists at the embassy in Abuja yesterday, the Saudi Ambassador to Nigeria, H.E Khaled Omar Yousef Abdrabuh said it was a prerequisite for females under the age of 45 for the performance of Hajj and it was not a new arrangement.
He said, "Hajj visas are issued to female pilgrims only after the names of their male guardians are inserted in their visas. This implies that the guardians arrive with them on the same flight or else it would be of no use, but the Hajj Commission, despite this, went ahead to airlift them without their male guardians."