The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria, NAHCON, on Tuesday assured the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia that it had taken measures to checkmate the menace of both drug and human trafficking among Nigerian pilgrims coming into the kingdom.
Alhaji Ahmed Maigari, NAHCON Coordinator in Madinah, gave the assurance when he visited the Saudi Arabian Deputy Minister of Hajj and Umrah, Mohammad Albijawi, in Madinah, Saudi Arabia.
Maigari said: “NAHCON has put in place all the necessary things to prevent people from trafficking drugs and even human beings to the Kingdom; the security committee is on its feet to ensure that does not happen.”
Maigari said the visit was to discuss “issues of importance regarding the ongoing Hajj operations, especially matters of concern being faced by the Nigerian pilgrims in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia”.
He said one of the matters was the long time being taken for verification of prospective pilgrims after landing in Saudi Arabia.
He said: “There is this issue of doing multiple verification which takes time to process, and pilgrims have to do both in Nigeria and after landing in Saudi Arabia.”
The Coordinator assured him that he would convey Saudi’s message to the proper authorities, to see that the partnership with Nigeria was done to ease the transportation of pilgrims.
Responding, the deputy minister assured NAHCON that everything had been done for the smooth running of the verification.
Albijawi said the practice was done twice to verify the true identity of pilgrims whose biometric data were captured in Nigeria before being allowed entry into Saudi Arabia.
He said: “They (officials) take the biometric in Nigeria as full details, while here (Saudi) it is just to check and confirm the details of the pilgrim.”
The minister urged Nigeria to emulate Malaysia and Indonesia where screening process of pilgrims and their luggage were done before departing to the Holy land.
He said: “Our officials will screen Nigerian pilgrims at your airports before boarding aircraft as soon as they land in Saudi, then there would be no need of any screening.”
The deputy minister called on NAHCON to intensify enlightenment of the pilgrims against drug trafficking and carrying contraband such as Kolanut, as the Saudi authorities would not take it lightly with anyone caught.