The House of Representatives has issued a directive to conduct a thorough investigation into the irregularities observed during the journeys of Nigerian Hajj pilgrims to Saudi Arabia this year.
This call for an inquiry came after a motion titled “Necessity to Examine the Unprecedented Difficulties Encountered by Nigerian Pilgrims during the Recently Concluded 2023 Hajj” was put forth by Honourable Ahmed Idris on Thursday.
As previously reported, at least 14 pilgrims died during this year’s Hajj.
During a post-Arafat review session in Makkah on Sunday, Dr. Usman Galadima, the leader of the Nigerian medical team for the pilgrimage, provided a breakdown indicating that seven pilgrims passed away before the Arafat phase.
According to him, one individual was from Plateau State, two were from Kaduna, two were from Osun, one was from Borno, one was from Yobe, one was from the Federal Capital Territory, one was from Benue, and one was from Lagos.
The House acknowledged that 95,000 Nigerians participated in the Hajj pilgrimage this year.
Idris informed the House that numerous public officials lacked proper accommodations and were compelled to sleep in unsanitary locations and conditions.
He further stated that the agency responsible for managing the welfare of the pilgrims did not take proactive measures to alleviate the difficulties faced by Nigerian Hajj pilgrims.
“We are aware that Nigerian pilgrims were subjected to untold hardships during the Hajj exercise from the inability of some airlines (such as Arik) to lift pilgrims due to lack of aircraft; lack of adequate tent accommodation at Mina and Arafat; substandard tents with unhealthy living conditions and environment; lack of proper medical attention to pilgrims in cases of emergency; lack of proper transportation logistics for Nigerian pilgrims; Nigerians being made to miss their flights due to stringent bottlenecks regarding withholding of their passports; and inability to secure airport slots for Nigerian airline operators for lifting of Nigerian pilgrims from Saudi Arabia back to the country and many others.
“VIP pilgrims were made to pay about $5,000 for VIP tents, and despite this exorbitant amount, pilgrims were stranded while others got tents of lesser value than what they paid for.
“Some tour operators perpetrated the worst form of unprofessionalism by failing to provide services promised to pilgrims in terms of accommodation, tent, feeding or transportation.
“It is disturbing that there was the absence of emergency medical services for sick pilgrims in distress at Mina camp as many distressed patients could not be attended to due to restrictions of ambulance access to the camp,” he said.
Following the adoption of the motion, the House has instructed the Committee on Pilgrims Affairs, once formed, to carry out the investigation and submit a report within four weeks, after which appropriate legislative measures will be taken.
Additionally, once constituted, the House has tasked the Committee on Legislative Compliance with ensuring the implementation of the investigation’s outcomes.