Saudi Arabia Ignores Nigeria’s Ultimatum: Deports More, 510 Nigerian Women Pilgrims.

Saudi Arabia yesterday deported more Nigerian women pilgrims, despite the country’s warnings and 24 hour ultimatum to stop the detentions amd deportations from the holy land.

Saudi authorities deported another batch of 510 Nigerian female pilgrims to this year’s hajj. 171 pilgrims had earlier been deported on Wednesday.

The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria had on Wednesday briefed the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House on the matter.

The standoff began when the Saudi Arabian authorities discovered that hundreds of female Nigerian pilgrims were without their statutory male escorts which is a prerequisite to entry into Saudi Arabia.

The authorities of Saudi Arabia insisted that the women were unaccompanied by male relations which was considered against laid down rules of the kingdom.

An adamant Saudi Arabia has so far refused to yield any ground to Nigeria on the issue of alleged unaccompanied female pilgrims, in spite of spirited diplomatic efforts by the Federal Government.
An intriguing development was that the husband of one of the female deportees also returned home with his wife, in protest, when the Saudi Authorities refused to clear his wife, even after explaining that he was the husband of the woman.

A highly placed source at the National Hajj Commission who disclosed this said that the return (in protest) by the male pilgrim in question was an indication that there was more to the stance of the Saudi authorities than meets the eyes.

He said: “On board of the plane bringing the women is also a male pilgrim. He decided to return home with his wife in protest when his explanations and entreaties to the fact that his wife was accompanied fell on deaf ears. That shows clearly that there is more to the issue than meets the eyes”.

It was learnt that the Chairman of the commission, Mallam Mohammed Bello, had a hectic day in
Abuja, yesterday, as he had to shuttle between the Presidency and the National Assembly to brief his bosses in the executive, as well as, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, who is the leader of the Federal Government delegation to this year’s hajj.

Officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, were, until yesterday, still making efforts to get the necessary clearance for a Federal Government delegation to visit Saudi Arabia with a view to resolving the issue.

President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan had on Wednesday constituted a Presidential delegation to interface with the Saudi authorities over the issue surrounding the detained Nigerian female pilgrims at King Abdul-Azziz International Airport, Jeddah.

The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, named Aminu Tambuwal as leader of that delegation.

Other members are: Minister of State II for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Nuruddeen Mohammed, Ambassador Shehu Galadanchi; Sheikh Sherif Saleh and Chairman of the Hajj Commission, Muhammad Bello.
The delegation is expected to depart for Saudi Arabia as soon as an appointment is finalised with the appropriate Saudi authorities.



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