• Saudi Arabia deports another 7 female pilgrims
From ISMAIL OMIPIDAN AND AKEEB ALARAPE, Jeddah
Rites for 2012 holy pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia by Muslims across the world commences today with camping at Muna, the City of Tent. No fewer than three million pilgrims from all countries of the world are expected to arrive Muna today for onward movement to Mount Arafat, where they are expected to stand up in prayers from daybreak till sunset.
Ninety-five thousand Nigerians will also participate in the annual rites, which will hold from Thursday, the 9th day of Dul- Hijjah, the 12th month of Muslims’ calendar and culminating into the Feast of Sacrifice on Friday, 10th of Dul-Hijjah, when other Islamic faithful across the world would mark as eid-el-kabir day.
Preparatory to the hajj rites, an all-night pre-Arafat meeting was held on Monday at Jeddah’s headquarters of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) presided over by the Amirul-Hajj of Nigeria and Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar 111. In attendance were the Nigerian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia,
Amb. Abubakar Shehu Bunu, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Nurudeen Muhammed, members of the Federal Government delegation, members of Nigerian Council of Ulamas, NAHCON members, chairmen and secretaries of state pilgrims’ boards, leaders of state delegation and representatives of airline operators. The meeting reviewed the accommodation arrangement for Nigerian pilgrims at Muna, where all pilgrims would stay till Sunday evening; transportation and feeding arrangements at Mount Arafat as well as security of Nigerians at Muzdalifa plains,
where the pilgrims would camp on Thursday evening before proceeding to Jamrat for the stoning of the Devil. It was gathered at the meeting that Nigerian pilgrims would enjoy Tent C treatment, which is meant for very important personalities, both at Muna and Muzdalifa.
The Tent C treatment would entitle the pilgrims to rugged and air-conditioned tents as well as standard feeding arrangement by qualified contractors. The pilgrims would also have mattresses and pillows as against previous years, where the pilgrims are left to the provisions of their respective state governments and tour operators. Sultan Abubakar said members of Council of Ulamas would ensure strict compliance to quality welfare package for the pilgrims as they would be made to visit all the state camps.
The Amirul-Hajj, however, warned the pilgrims to be good representatives of Nigeria by observing their hajj rites devoid of violence and disobedience of rules and regulations of Saudi authorities. Head, Media Unit of NAHCON, Mallam Uba Mana confirmed the preparedness of the commission, saying all hands were on deck to ensure hitch-free hajj exercise.
According to him, Nigerian medical team were already on standby for any emergence regardless of the arrangement made by Saudi authorities. Mana said Saudi authorities had put in place enough medical facilities for all the pilgrims and no ambulance of any country was allowed either in Muna, Mount Arafat or Muzdalifa. A local Saudi newspaper, Saudi Gazette, reported yesterday that 25, 700 civil defense force, with 6, 600 vehicles and 19 helicopters had been deployed to the holy sites to ensure safety and security of the victims.
The country with the highest number of pilgrims for this year hajj is Indonesia with 200, 000 pilgrims. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabian authorities, yesterday, deported another seven female pilgrims for alleged incomplete travelling documents, barely two days to the Arafat. The pilgrims arrived the country through the Malam Aminu Kano International Airport at about 4:30a.m aboard a Boeing 747 Kabo aircraft.
An airport official told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on condition of anonymity that the pilgrims were deported from Makka for not having complete travelling documents. He said the identities of the pilgrims could not be ascertained immediately. Effort to contact National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) officials in Kano failed as they were said to be in the holy land for the hajj. Two weeks ago, the Saudi authorities also deported about 20 Nigerian pilgrims through the same airport for similar offence.