Controversy has trailed the threat by a service provider to stop Nigeria’s participation in the 2017 Hajj operations.
One Ibrahim Suleiman, an alleged owner of Taura Cargo, who at a press conference in kano, threatened to institute a court process to stop the performance of 2017 hajj, declared that the only reason for him to halt his action was unless his petition against the leadership of hajj commission in the House of Representatives is decided in his favour.
In the ranging controversy that followed the threat, a group of Hajj observers demanded a probe into the issue. Security agencies, the group said under the aegis of Independent Hajj Reporters, should investigate the service provider.
In a statement by its national coordinator Ibrahim Muhammed and publicity secretary, Abubakar Mahmoud, the civil society organization said: “We view the threat made by one Ibrahim Suleiman Yusuf to institute a court process to stop the performance of 2017 hajj with a serious concern.
“As reported by some national dailies last week, one Ibrahim Suleiman has called a press conference in Kano where he made a threat to “sue the federal government, leadership of hajj commission with a view to stop the performance of 2017 hajj unless his petition against the leadership of hajj commission in the House of Representatives is decided in his favour.”
The statement read further: “We are therefore using this medium to call on relevant security agencies to immediately invite him for questioning.
His outbursts are serious threat that can activate serious security challenges if appropriate reprimand action is not taken.
“No one has ever made such threat of attempting to halt the performance of Muslim religious obligation of performing hajj.”
According to the group, “while we acknowledged his right to express his misgivings via the petition, we equally condemned his careless threat to stop Muslims from performing hajj simply because of his business interests.”
“We expected the Arewa Foundation chairman to have awaited the outcome of his petition in the House of Representatives, rather than engaged in act of blackmailing the entire Muslims of stopping 2017 hajj.
“As stakeholders with surveillance function over Hajj affairs in country, we know that the said Ibrahim Suleiman has been an accommodation agent to Kano state pilgrims. We equally know that he owned a cargo company called Taura Cargo.
“We are appalled that despite the fact that he has benefited immensely from hajj in the past, he is now willing to stop what Almighty Allah has decreed because his company was alleged to have failed to meet the criteria set to offer service to pilgrims this year hajj,” Independent Hajj Reporters said.
Hajj 2018: Fears over biometric data capturing
- Buhari tasks NAHCON on quick resolution
The confusion over biometric data capturing for 2018 Hajj operations has degenerated as more intending pilgrims from Nigeria expressed fear of being excluded in the scheme. Saudi Arabia had included the biometric data capturing as a part of conditions for all intending pilgrim to participate in this year’s Hajj rites, a move that has been seen by many as a threat, due to time factor and availability of centres, to thousands of intending pilgrims in the country. President Muhammadu Buhari had already met with top officials of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), tasking them to resolve the matter before it gets out of hand.
The President raised his concern recently over the hardship being faced by Nigerian intending pilgrims over the new biometric policy when NAHCON Chairman, Barrister Abdullahi Mukhtar, briefed him on the 2018 hajj, and the new policies introduced by the Saudi authorities.
A group, which calls itself Independent Hajj Reporters, has also, in a reaction to the confusion, said that centres for the newly-introduced compulsory data capturing of intending pilgrims should be established in all the 774 local governments across the country. “About 80 – 85 percent of pilgrims from Nigeria come from rural areas and are mostly farmers.
To successfully capture the biometric data of all hajj pilgrim requires having data capture centres in all the 774 local governments,” the National coordinator and publicity secretary of the group, Ibrahim Muhammed and Abubakar Mahmoud, respectfully, said in a statement.
The civil society said the Travel Agents Association of Pakistan, the umbrella body of travel agents in Pakistan, had earlier protested against Etimad (Private) Limited — a travel company in Pakistan, which is processing the biometric enrolment for Pakistani applicants for the same reason.
“The hajj and umrah tour operators in Nigeria also expressed their concern saying the policy has caused its intending pilgrims to various challenges,” it said. The civil society said, “a large number of people who wanted to travel to Saudi Arabia to perform their religious ritual had been inconvenienced by the new policy as they had to spent days in Abuja, Kano or Lagos for their biometric verification, wasting precious time and resources.” “Since only Kano, Abuja and Lagos have the data capture centres, we wonder how the three centres will cater for a country with 95, 000 hajj and over 1.5 million umrah pilgrims,” Independent Hajj Reporters said.
“We are concerned that our pilgrims will be subjected to serious hardship unless the government of Saudi Arabia suspends this policy in the interest of the Muslim ummah,” the statement read. It continued: “Since the Saudi security officials have to screen and capture biodata of all pilgrims on arrival, it is our opinion that such biometric records be used for whatever security or other purposes this new policy is set to achieved.
“While we acknowledged the enormous security and logistics challenge faced by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in her quest to make hajj a memorable experience for pilgrims, we urge them to consider the implication of this policy on millions of Muslims who may be discouraged from fulfilling their fifth pillar of Islam.”
Muslim students condemn FG’s silence over non-academic staff strike
The Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria has expressed displeasure over the silence of the Federal Government on the ongoing nationwide strike embarked upon by non-academic workers of universities in Nigeria. The Amir (President) of the MSSN in Lagos State, Dr. Saheed Ashafa, in a statement, complained about the alleged poor attention paid to the striking workers by the Federal Government.
His reaction is coming few days to the organisation’s Sisters Empowerment Programme and Campus Interactive Forum scheduled for February 24th and 25th respectively. According to him, the ongoing strike had stayed too long and will further worsen the country’s standard of education. He wondered why the Federal Government would subject a segment of universities’ workers to hardship, urging that an urgent effort should be made to get the issue resolved.
Ashafa urged that President Muhammadu Buhari should react to the ongoing crisis like other national issues, saying “his not giving priority to the strike action is sending a bad perception about his administration”. He said, “In the first place, the strike is avoidable and needless. It is unpalatable to the hearing that a country like Nigeria still pays low attention to workers’ welfare.
The poor attention and undue silence of the Federal Government over the ongoing strike embarked upon by members of NASU, SSANU and NAAT is condemnable and highly demoralizing. “It is understandable that children of majority of those leading the education agencies and ministries that should engage the striking workers are studying abroad, but that should not mean that the sons and daughters of the Nigerian masses should be made to suffer for developing interest in education.
“As we speak, some of our universities smell and stink, others have their libraries, health centres, power houses and other strategic facilities shut down. Students now live on university campuses like they are in the jungle. This is pathetic and must be urgently addressed.
“We will not get the best from our workers if we continue to treat them like slaves; their commitment to work will be vacuous. Apart from having meetings with the striking workers, the generality of Nigerians deserve to know what the plans of the FG are in resolving this crisis and preventing subsequent ones.”
Nigerians’ 2018 Hajj participation faces threat
- Operators pick holes in Saudi’s new immigration policy
The Nigerians participation in this year’s Hajj operations is facing threat, Hajj and Umrah tour operators have said as they picked holes in the new immigration policy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which, among others, mandated biometric verification for all intending pilgrims. Declaring that the policy is exposing intending pilgrims to various challenges, the operators expressed concern over the newly introduced biometric data capturing by the Jeddah. Saudi Arabia had, in 2017, modified its immigration laws to make biometric verification compulsory for all intending visitors.
Only three capturing centres – Abuja, Kano and Lagos – were approved by the Saudi authority for the exercise in Nigeria. The Federal Government had, in an earlier reaction to the policy, assured Nigerian pilgrims of his commitment to address the problem along with its attendant consequences on Hajj and Umrah operations in the country.
Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Hajiya Khadijat Bukar Abba Ibrahim who said this when she received the House of Representatives Committee on Nigeria-Saudi Arabia Parliamentary Friendship and Hajj Affairs in her office in Abuja, stated that her ministry was engaging the Saudi authority to ensure the suspension of the newly introduced bio-metrics for intending pilgrims of Hajj and Umrah from Nigeria.
The Association for Hajj and Umrah Operators of Nigeria (AHUON), however, desired a more speedy approach to addressing the threats posed to Hajj operations by the policy. The Vice President of the association, Tijjani Uba Waru, lamented that the unpreparedness of the company appointed to implement the policy in the country is affecting their businesses.
Waru who said he was a regular visitor to office of VFS Tasheel, the outsourced partner appointed by Saudi Arabia to facilitate visa applications for Nigerians, declared: “It is really bad. People coming here are spending hours, some even spend days before getting their biometrics captured.”
The delay, he added, is costing hajj and umrah operators ‘millions’ of Naira as intending pilgrims are already losing interest. “It is not easy especially for those coming from distant places just for finger prints. Some have to come by air, others by road. And we know the danger of kidnappings on the road.
“This period is the lowest season. If the situation continues like this, it will jeopardize preparations ahead of the 2018 hajj exercise,” he added. “If they are not able to capture few people here on time during this off season, what will happen at the peak period when 95,000 intending pilgrims from Nigeria will be preparing for the hajj exercise?”
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