Nigeria, Saudi authorities end row over female pilgrims

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BY OKEY NDIRIBE

ABUJA-The Saudi  Arabian Government has agreed to welcome deported Nigerian pilgrims who have valid travel documents.

This was disclosed yesterday by Speaker of the House Representatives Rt. Hon. Aminu Tambuwal  at the presidential wing of the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja shortly after arriving from that country.

The Speaker had led a Presidential Committee which visited that country to intervene over the deportation of female pilgrims who were not accompanied by male escorts last week.

Those in the delegation included the Emir of Zuru, Alhaji Sani Sami, Alhaji Aminu Dantata, Professor Shehu Galadanchi, Chairman of Nigerian Hajj Commission (NAHCON), Alhaji Mohammed Bello,  and the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs II, Dr. Nurudeen Mohammed.

According to the Speaker, the Saudi Arabian government  is also considering Nigeria’s request of extending the airlifting deadline to accommodate the deported pilgrims.

Tambuwal  who expressed happiness at the outcome of the meeting also disclosed that the issue of male companions for female pilgrim was also settled as the Nigerian delegation made it known that the issue  of the companion (Muharam) is open to different interpretations from the four jurispidences in Islam.

He said: “Our interface with the Saudi authorities has been very successful because we had serious and deep engagement. The first good news is that all of those pilgrims who have secured valid visa are being taken back. “The understanding so far with them is that they will be allowed entry into Saudi Arabia”.

According to Tambuwal, the meeting was able to  consolidate the long standing relationship between the two countries, adding that  “Assurances have been given to that effect.

“I believe that also, if need be we have requested for them to extend the time of airlift and also the time of issuance of visa to our pilgrims” he said.

On the issue of male companion (Muharram) for female pilgrims, especially those under 40 years of age , “Of course under the Islamic jurisprudence, Muharram is a requirement but there are different categories of Muharams, as different schools of Islamic jurisprudence, the Maliki, the Shafi’i, the Hambali and the Hanafi.

“These are the four pronounced schools and they have their different definitions of Muharam and we have passed across to them that message and we believe that they understand and  reason with us that in Nigeria, the predominant Islamic school of jurisprudence is Maliki school of thought, which allows for a group Muharram”.

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