Nigeria protests seizure of pilgrims’ wristband

Muslim pilgrims circle counterclockwise Islam's holiest shrine, the Kaaba, at the Grand Mosque in the Saudi holy city of Mecca, during the 2015 Hajj. AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED AL-SHAIKH

Muslim pilgrims circle counterclockwise Islam’s holiest shrine, the Kaaba, at the Grand Mosque in the Saudi holy city of Mecca, during the 2015 Hajj. AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED AL-SHAIKH

• 18 Die In Mecca
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Nigeria is to protest the seizure of electronic wristbands meant for use of citizens, in the just concluded 2016 pilgrimage to the Holy land, by the authorities of Saudi Arabia

The Consulate-General of Nigerian Consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Alhaji Muhammad Yunusa, said Nigeria would write a formal protest letter to the Saudi authorities over the seizure by men of its customs.Yunusa, who spoke at the Post-Arafat stakeholders’ meeting organised by the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), which ended in the early hours of yesterday in Makkah, said the seizure of the materials, despite the prior knowledge of the Saudi authorities of the initiative, was unfortunate.

Nigerian authorities through NAHCON introduced the wristband to monitor and track each pilgrim’s movement and facilitate easy identification where the need arises. Besides, it claimed the gadgets contained other vital information about the pilgrims, such as their health status and other information that would have facilitated easy interaction with the pilgrims.

However, thousands of the items were seized at the airport in Madinah by security officials, and all entreaties by Nigerian officials for the release failed. Following this, NAHCON suspended the use of the wristbands by all pilgrims, rendering the whole project useless.

The envoy’s revelations followed submission by the NAHCON’ s Coordinator of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), Dr. Ashiru Suleiman Daura, who told the stakeholders, including the Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, Monsurat Sunmonu and her counterpart in the House of Representatives Committee on Nigeria-Saudi Inter-Parliamentary Friendship and Hajj Affairs, Abdullahi Balarabe Salame, as well as the leader of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) for the 2016 Hajj, and Etsu Nupe, Yahya Abubakar, that the action of Saudi had robbed Nigeria of a serious innovation.

Yunusa said the action of Saudi authorities ran counter to the understanding reached by the two governments before the introduction of the wristbands. He claimed that the embassy had in February informed the Saudi government of Nigeria’s plan to introduce the wristbands and this was followed up in July.

Besides, he also recalled that Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, followed it with a discussion with his Saudi counterpart, in February, when he accompanied President Muhammadu Buhari during his historic state visit to the Kingdom, where it was agreed that the wristband could be used.

However, independent enquiries indicated that, while earlier pilgrims into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia had no issues with the security as they wore the wristband, the action of the Saudi customs might have been triggered by the fact that the contingent from one of the South-west states entered Madina airport with cartons of the wrist bands, rather than the pilgrims wearing them.

This, it was learnt aroused the curiosity of the security agencies, who then confiscated them. As the source put it, “the arrest of two pilgrims from a State in the North-central part of the country also aggravated the situation.”

Meanwhile, Kano State Pilgrims Welfare Board has confirmed the death of two pilgrims from the State in Saudi Arabia, during the Hajj.The Public Relations Officer of the board, Alhaji Nuhu Badamasi who confirmed this development, said the two male victims from Kano died after brief illness in Mina and Mecca respectively.NAHCON had announced that 18 Nigerians lost their lives during the pilgrimage.

As the first batch of Nigerian pilgrims for the 2016 departed Saudi Arabia on their return journey home, yesterday, NAHCON has warned them to strictly comply with the new Saudi policy of allowing an 8Kg hand luggage in the aircraft, as well as, a 32Kg of luggage.

This, the commission said, was to allow for easy passage of their loads and also to create some level of comfort for both the pilgrims and other passengers in the aircraft.



1 Comment
  • Bashir Adesanya

    You see, that is not the problem of the Saudi Authority anymore. Why would the Nigerian Authority allow multiple carriage of the device that is meant to be worn by pilgrims? This should really lead to suspicion as the purpose of the device may have been compromised. However, such persons who brought in the devises in bulk are, most likely, hajj agents whose actions were not included in the agreement for which the Saudi Authority initially consented to the use of the device. Just because of the profit a few people had set out to make, such a laudable innovative project has now been dealt a serious blow. Had the device been use this year, perhaps, some areas of improvement would have been detected.

    Rather than blaming the Saudi Authority for been very strict, I blame our Authority for been compromised. The Saudis have got their integrity to protect and defend, and in this advanced age of technology, no sensible people will take such violations by unofficial individuals with levity.

    More so, I think our press men should stop their biased reporting… I expect some questions be posed in the report on how the devices meant to be held individually, just like the international passports, have now become a thing of mass carriage by nonofficial profit-making agents.

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