SHOWDOWN: Aso Rock, Saudi Govt. at war over detained female pilgrims

Posted by News Express | 26 September 2012 | 3,415 times

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A diplomatic war has broken out over the cruel fate that befell about a thousand Nigerian female Muslims who went for this year’s Hajj only to be detained in cloudy circumstances by the Saudi authorities.

While reports have it that the women are being detained for not having maharram with them as required by Hajj rules, both the detainees and Nigerian officials say the claim is untrue. A maharram is the approved male companion, usually a husband, father or brother, accompanying a female pilgrim.  

News Express had previously reported that high-level contacts were being made by Nigerian authorities to secure the release of the detained Nigerian women, adding, however: “What is not clear is if many of them will still be in the frame of mind to perform the Hajj after their release.”

This afternoon, the Nigerian Government ran out of patience and issued a 24-hour ultimatum to Saudi authorities to resolve issues and release the detainees or face retaliatory action.

The ultimatum was revealed through a news flash by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) but details are still sketchy.

As reported this morning by News Express, the hapless Nigerian female pilgrims had sent an SOS, lamenting their ordeal in detention. The report quoted one of the detained pilgrims, Bilkisu Nasidi, as revealing Monday on the BBC Focus on Africa programme that they are being held in a “terrible condition.”

Hajiya Nasidi revealed that they had been sleeping on the floor for three days, with about 200 of them sharing four toilets. Initial reports said 400 were being detained as at Monday but the

The first batch of 400 were arrested after their flight touched down on Sunday while another 600 were detained at the airport on arrival the next day.

Reacting to the scandalous development, the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON)’s Commissioner of Operations, Alhaji Muhammad Abdullahi Mukhtar, denied that the Nigerian female pilgrims could not produce muharram. “He said the State Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Boards (SMPWB) ‘qualify and identify as muharram of female pilgrims. And that has been the case for so many decades’,” according to a Daily Trust report.

Mukhtar wondered why only Nigerian pilgrims were selected for this treatment by the Saudi authorities. “In fact, there is no such issue in the memorandum of understanding signed between Nigeria and Saudi Arabia,” he said.

*Photo, courtesy Daily Trust, shows some of the detainees boarding their flight to Saudi Arabia.

Source: News Express

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