The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria has confirmed the deaths of more Nigerian pilgrims at the ongoing 2016 Hajj.
The death toll rose from 10 on Arafat day to 18.
This was just as NAHCON threatened to sanction erring states as it commenced the home-coming of pilgrims on Saturday.
The NAHCON head of Medical Team, Dr. Ibrahim Kana, confirmed the deaths during the post-Arafat stakeholders meeting at the NAHCON head office in Umul Jud, Makkah, Saudi Arabia.
Kana said the mortality rate for the 2016 Hajj was still the lowest in five years, attributing it to enhanced sanitation, increased medical awareness and compressed national medical team.
Kana listed the affected states as Kwara, Kogi, Bauchi, Taraba, Niger, Kaduna, FCT, and some Nigerian international pilgrims.
He said two pilgrims died in Madinah, including a 40-year-old woman who died in her sleep; three in Muna; while 13 died in Makkah, including a mad woman and a man with renal failure.
He said 33 per cent of those that died were women, while 67 per cent were men, with majority of them dying of natural causes beyond the medical team.
The head of the medical team said they were able to attend to over 21,000 patients since the commencement of the hajj rites at various medical centres in the holy land, while they were still having more influx of people coming for malaria treatment, non communicable diseases and general body pain arising from the stress of the hajj.
Kana said despite repeated warnings, the medical team detected five pregnant women made it to the Holy Land, with the medical team having to evacuate an ectopic pregnancy, while there was no single delivery of baby in the last five years.
In line with international practice, he said the medical team were able to refer over 100 patients to other Saudi hospitals for urgent medical attention and did verbal autopsy on the dead pilgrims.
Kana, however, implored state pilgrim welfare boards to ensure thorough screening of their pilgrims before embarking on Hajj exercise, wondering how somebody on dialysis back in Nigeria, as well as pregnant women made it to the holy land.
The NAHCON Chairman, Alhaji Abdullahi Mukhtar, threatened that the Commission will not hesitate to sanction any state whose pilgrims embark on any agitation at the airport.
Mukhtar read the riot during the post-Arafat stakeholders meeting, saying: “Any agitation at the airport will not be condoned and be considered as security threats by Saudi Arabia authorities.”
He also said all states who failed to give BTA to their pilgrims as well as those who collected Adiya money (money for ram slaughtering) and failed to remit same to NAHCON would be penalised.
He said: “From 2017 Hajj Insha Allah, remittances from states to NAHCON will include pilgrims BTA, Adiyya money, illegal use of private collectors banned, while defaulters in BTA payments will be penalised.”
Mukhtar said the 2016 hajj exercise was 95 per cent successful compared to what transpired in the previous five years, adding that the 2017 hajj operation will be fully computerised.
Mukhtar assured all states that did not enjoy some facilities paid for like air conditioners in their tents, the newly introduced e-wristbands that the Commission would reimburse them.
While thanking all those who contributed to the success of this year’s hajj operation, Mukhtar tendered his unreserved apologies for those he or his officials might have offended during the course of the hajj rites.
In his goodwill message, the NSCIA-appointed Amirul hajj and leader of delegation, Dr. Yahya Abubakar, who is also the Etsu Nupe, expressed appreciation to NAHCON and urged it to improve on its services to the pilgrims with the fear of Allah.
Abubakar, who had earlier visited pilgrims from Niger and Borno States in company of Oba Rasheed Ayotunde, the Aragbiji of Iragbiji, and Alhaji Usman Bilyaminu, the Emir of Dass, told them to be of good ambassadors of Nigeria.
The leader of the delegation and his team also visited the medical centre of NAHCON, where he went to see the in-house patients as well as facilities of the centre.
He attributed the non disclosure of pilgrims terminal ailment back in Nigeria to spirituality as some of them preferred to come and die in the Holy land.
Abubakar, however, advised NAHCON to start preparation of the 2017 Hajj exercise in earnest so as to avoid all the last minute rush as well as block all the necessary loopholes noticed in 2016 hajj operation.
In attendance at the stakeholders meeting were Senator Monsurat Sunmonu, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs; Rep. Abdullahi Salame, the Chairman, House Committee on Saudi Inter parliamentary Friendship and Hajj Affairs; Ambassador Salisu Umar, Charge d’Affairs of the Nigeria Embassy in Riyadh, among others.