By Victoria Ojeme & Bashir Bello
The Federal Government has cautioned Muslim pilgrims against taking banned substances to Saudi Arabia, as an inaugural flight of intending pilgrims for 2019 Hajj exercise took off yesterday.
Speaking through the Chairman, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, NIDCOM, Abike Dabiri- Erewa, the Federal Government warned that such illegal acts would attract the death penalty, noting that kolanuts and prescription painkillers in large quantities had been banned in Saudi Arabia, and if found, would attract severe penalties according to new regulations.
In a statement by the NIDCOM Head of Media, Abdur-Rahman Balogun, Dabiri-Erewa said despite repeated warnings and workshops for intending pilgrims, it was disheartening that some Nigerians still breached Saudi Arabia authorities’ law.
She recalled that some Nigerians caught with hard drugs in the last few years were currently on death row in Saudi Arabia, pleading with pilgrims to shun the shameful act.
According to her, “the Federal government through the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria, NAHCON, and various state boards have made adequate arrangements to attend to the medical needs of the pilgrims in Saudi Arabia. Similarly, the Saudi authorities have free medical centres in all the nooks and crannies of the Kingdom equipped with all drugs for their medical needs.”
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She urged security agencies and other para-military operative stationed at the various departure centres in Nigeria to screen the pilgrims before their departure to Saudi Arabia.
Dabiri-Erewa advised Nigerian pilgrims to be good ambassadors of the country by portraying Nigeria in good image and pray for peace, unity and progress of the country in the holy land.
Meanwhile, NAHCON had earlier, announced that its inaugural flight of Nigerian pilgrims to 2019 Hajj exercise commenced on Wednesday, July 10 with intending pilgrims from Katsina and Lagos states.
The first batch of NAHCON advanced team comprising 39 members of staff for hajj operations left already for Saudi Arabia since last Friday with another 15-man National Medical Advance Team led by Dr Ibrahim Kana also departed for Saudi Arabia.
Over 65,000 Nigerians excluding the private operators are slated to perform 2019 Hajj exercise in Saudi Arabia.
It will be recalled that the Saudi Arabian authorities had asked Nigerian pilgrims alongside others not to bring prohibited drugs, foods and items to the country.