Four hundred female pilgrims from Nigeria, who arrived in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia yesterday for this year’s hajj, have been separated from their male counterparts and detained by Saudi authorities, the Daily Trust newspaper reported this morning.
According to the report, the Saudis requested each female pilgrim to provide her muharram, that is, the approved male companion accompanying her on her trip, usually a husband, father or brother.
Those who could not produce any, the report said, were detained, with the authorities threatening to deport them back to Nigeria.
Daily Trust reports that the pilgrims arrived Jeddah in two separate Max Air flights Sunday afternoon.
One of the planes, it said, conveyed pilgrims from Jigawa State while the second had pilgrims from Sokoto State.
“The nearly 400 women were only allowed to be supplied with water and food by the Saudis after strenuous efforts by the Nigerian Consul in Jeddah and the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Alhaji Nurudeen,” the paper said.
When Daily Trust contacted Sultan Muhammadu Sa’ad, who is the Amirul Hajj , he condemned the action of the Saudi authorities, describing it as “an insult to Nigeria and to this country’s millions of Muslims.”
The Sultan reportedly said, “They never raised this issue and never demanded that the female pilgrims must have a muharram. They did not make this a requirement for issuing visas. They issued visas to all these pilgrims, only to embarrass, detain and threaten to deport them when they arrived in the holy land. How can they do this to us?
“The chairman of the National Hajj Commission assured me that the Saudis never asked for this during all the meetings they held. This is very unfortunate. We have done a lot over the years to improve on our hajj operation and we do not deserve this humiliation.”
The Sultan also told the paper that he had ordered the Nigerian pilgrims to resist any attempt to deport them.
“Let the Saudis physically carry them into the planes and deport them,” he said. “They issued them with valid visas, only to shift the goal posts at the very last minute, when they had already arrived in Jeddah.”