President Muhammadu Buhari has moved to ease Hajj visa processing difficulties that could be faced by intending Muslim pilgrims to Saudi Arabia this year.
To this end, a formal letter to King Salman Bn Abdul-Aziz of Saudi Arabia, had been sent through the Nigeria’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Isa Dodo, accompanied by Nigeria’s Consul-General, in Jeddah, Muhammad Yunusa, and the Chairman of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), Abdullahi Muhammad.
While delivering the letter, Dodo expressed the concern of President Buhari over the present difficulties faced by intending pilgrims in securing visas during the Umrah season as a result of the newly introduced policy of biometrics capturing of applicants.
A statement signed by the Head of Public Affairs at NAHCON, Fatima Usara, stated that at present “the data capture is being handled by a company assigned by Saudi Authorities, which has not prepared fully to handle visa applications in Nigeria.”
In his address at the meeting, NAHCON chairman, Muhammad, observed that the process of introducing the new policy began in 2014 through formal communication by the relevant Saudi authorities.
However, he said, the commencement of the policy was not properly communicated to the relevant Nigerian authorities in charge of Hajj and Umrah.
In addition, Mohammed said the facilities deployed to implement the policy were grossly inadequate, adding that visa applicants were subjected to long travel to where biometric capture centers were located.
“The chairman, therefore, reiterated Nigeria’s request for a suspension of the policy for Hajj 2018 until such a time when the company is ready or it opens at least a minimum of 23 centres across Nigeria and to make such centres accessible to intending pilgrims across the country,” the statement said.
It also said Mohammed seized the opportunity to request the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs to adequately regulate the issuance of Gratis (Mujamala) visas for Hajj in view of the abuse of such visas in some quarters.