From Muhammad Ibrahim, Kaduna
A group under the aegis of Independent Hajj Reporters, yesterday wrote a petition against the Saudi Ambassador in Nigeria for what it termed “wholesale extortion of Nigeria Umrah Pilgrims on issuance of visa and other related charges” The petition, dated July 14, and signed by its National Coordinator and its National Secretary Ibrahim Muhammed and Nuruddeen M. Abdallah and respectively was made available to newsmen in Kaduna.
According to the group, the petition was addressed to President Goodluck Jonathan, and copied to Saudi Minister for Hajj and foreign affair, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Nigeria, Senate and House Committee on Foreign Affairs and other agencies.
“In 2013, Nigerian Muslims who went to perform Umrah during the month of Ramadan in Saudi Arabia paid between N250, 000 and N350, 000 as entire Umrah package which includes, visa, return ticket and accommodation depending on which Tour Operator and the type of services they offer” “However, in this year Umrah exercise, we received reports from some Umrah pilgrims that they paid as much as $2,000 before Umrah visa was given to them by some tour operators, who are allegedly acting in connivance with some staffs of Saudi embassy in Abuja and its consulate office in Kano,” the group said.
According to the petition, “the groups want an investigation on whether Umrah or Hajj Visa is payable, to determine the roles played by the Saudi embassy staffs in issuing visa to tour operators, especially the Saudi Ambassador in Abuja and the Consul General in kano.
“To determine the approved guidelines for obtaining Umrah visa, and whether such guidelines were strictly adhered to by Saudi embassy in Abuja and its Consulate office in Kano this year.
“To investigate the alleged romance between the Saudi Ambassador in Abuja and the Consul General in Kano with owners of some tour operators and to determine if Saudi embassy in other countries treats its host countries with such contempt in the same manner in which the current Saudi ambassador in Nigeria is doing” In a related development, the group urged NAHCON to establish a separate unit to handle Umrah activities in the country.
The statement said “in view of the corrupt attitudes of some tour operators who are conniving with outside party to extort Nigeria Umrah Pilgrims, , we urge NAHCON to establish a separate unit to coordinate Umrah activities as stated in the National Hajj Commission Establishment Act 2006.”
They added that it is their opinion it is only through proper regulation and coordination of Umrah activities by NAHCON that the relative sanity in Hajj operation can be reflected in Umrah.