Daily Trust (Abuja)

Nigeria: Deported Pilgrims Begin Return to Saudi Arabia

Abuja, Kaduna, Jalingo, Dutse, Ibadan, Katsina, Kano — Some of the Nigerian female pilgrims deported to the country from Saudi Arabia for lack of male guardians (muhram) about two weeks ago are now being taking back to the holy land for this year's hajj following resolution of the diplomatic misunderstanding between the two countries.

Report from Kaduna indicates that the affected pilgrims from Kaduna State have since returned to Saudi Arabia to continue with their observance of the hajj rites.

The state Pilgrims Welfare Board's public relations officer, Mallam Yunusa Muhammad confirmed the development, saying the remaining pilgrims were on their way back to Saudi Arabia.

"52 female pilgrims from Kaduna State were deported. Some, out of this number, have since returned. I don't have the statistics but I know that some were returned. Out of the remaining ones, some of them have got their second visa while we are still waiting for the remaining second visas. Pilgrims officers from respective local governments are used as Muhrams (male escorts) of the female pilgrims that is for those who don't have relatives going with them", he said.

Our Taraba correspondent reports that more than half of the 63 women pilgrims from the state deported by Saudi authorities have gone back while the remaining will today be airlifted back to the holy land to continue their hajj.

Chairman Muslims Pilgrims Welfare Board for the state Alhaji Hamman Adama Tukur said 49 women out of the 63 that were deported had already gone back and the remaining 14 will leave today with hajj officials. Tukur said the deportees were between the ages of 18 and 35 years.

And in Jigawa, the certified visas of 193 pilgrims from the state out of the 205 that were deported had since been issued.

Executive Secretary of the state Pilgrims' Welfare Board Alhaji Sani Ahmed Alhassan the visas of the remaining pilgrims would be "ready any moment from now".

Report from Ibadan says the affected pilgrims from the state are still hopeful of being taking back to the holy land. One of the affected female pilgrims Mrs. Bolanle Ajibade said arrangements are on by pilgrims' board from the state to ensure that they do not suffer unjustly for the recent mix up.

The 16 Katsina female intending pilgrims deported last Wednesday from Saudi Arabia might perform this year's hajj, according to executive secretary of the Katsina pilgrims' board Alhaji Aminu Dababa.

Dababa said the Saudi Consulate in Kano had issued guidelines on how to ratify visa problems, saying "the board had already handed over their passports to Saudi Consulate office in Kano to effect the correct changes."

All the 50 deported female pilgrims from Kebbi State are going to be taken back for the hajj, executive chairman of the state Pilgrims Welfare Board Alhaji Usman Bello Suru said.

Suru said the board had commenced arrangement for returning all the pilgrims to Saudi Arabia for this year's hajj, saying the board had returned the passports of the affected pilgrims to Kano for the re-issuance of visas.

But reports from Kano say the deported female pilgrims from state are yet to be flown back for the annual religious ritual.

Checks by Daily Trust in Kano revealed that none of the deportees has been taken back for the exercise as at yesterday.

One of the intending pilgrims told our correspondent that their passports had been collected by the state hajj officials, saying no date of departure had been communicated to them.

"We were told that the passports would be used to reprocess our entry visas to Saudi Arabia, but nobody was specific about the return date," said Maryam Sani.

Spokesperson of Kano State Pilgrims Welfare Board Alhaji Nuhu Badamasi confirmed that none of the deported women pilgrims has been airlifted back to the holy land yet.

Isa SA'idu,  Terkula Igidi, Abdullahi Anako, Yemi Bamidele, Yusha'u a Ibrahim, Lawan Danjuma Adamu, Ismail Mudashir, Birnin Kebbi and Abdulkadir Badsha Mukhtar

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