By Haroon Balogun
Against fears of the spread of the deadly Ebola virus and rumors making the rounds of suspension of hajj visas to Nigeria, the National Hajj Commission, NAHCON has said that preparation is ongoing for the annual rites, adding that there was no communication from Saudi authorities that Nigeria had been banned from this year’s exercise.
In a release sent to Facing the Kaaba and signed by the commission’s head of media, Alhaji Uba Mana; it reads: “the attention of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria has been drawn to a newspaper report published in one of the dailies (not Vanguard) Wednesday 6th August, 2014 titled-Ebola: Saudi Bans Nigerian Pilgrims.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the Commission wishes to make it categorically clear that there is no formal communication from Saudi Arabia indicating that Nigeria has been banned for this year’s Hajj. “To the contrary, Tuesday (last week) the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Abuja released to the Commission the required codes for the processing of visas for pilgrims.
“Consequently, arrangements for this year’s Hajj are ongoing and have not been hampered by any internal or external factors.
“The Commission has also interfaced with all the relevant Federal ministries on Ebola issue and the Federal government is doing everything humanly possible to make this year’s Hajj exercise a success.
“Moreover, information available to the Commission shows that only three countries in the West African sub-region have been banned and these are Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. It is imperative to note that discussions between the Saudi authorities and the governments of these countries on the visa suspension over the Ebola virus started four months ago. Indeed, the Saudi authorities have equally assured the affected countries that the suspension will be reviewed as soon as the World Health Organization (WHO) issues a statement that citizens in these countries are allowed to travel for Hajj.
“The Commission commends the efforts of all federal agencies and the Saudi Arabian authorities for their efforts on the welfare of the pilgrims. The general public is once more assured that the airlift of the Nigerian pilgrims will go on as scheduled God willing,” Mana stated.