Saudi Arabia Plans To Stop Nigerian Pilgrims From 2018 Hajj

Saudi Arabian authorities are threatening to block Nigerian pilgrims from attending this year’s Hajj exercise.

Nigeria has one of the largest contingents in the annual religious exercise with about 95,000 pilgrims.

The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) on Monday said Saudi Arabia is taking the decision because of reports of Lassa fever outbreak in Nigeria.

Outbreak of Lassa fever has been reported in a number of states.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 1081 suspected cases and 90 deaths have been reported from 18 states (Anambra, Bauchi, Benue, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Ekite, Federal Capital Territory, Gombe, Imo, Kogi, Lagos, Nasarawa, Ondo, Osun, Plateau, Rivers, and Taraba) between January 1 through February 25 this year.

During the period, 317 cases have been classified as confirmed and eight as probable, including 72 deaths.

WHO however, said in a report on Sunday that there is a steady decline in Lassa fever cases and deaths from 70 by February 18 to five by April 15.

The Guardian on Monday quoted WHO, as saying that “… From the beginning of the outbreak in January 1, 2018 to the week ending February 18, 2018, the number of weekly reported Lassa fever cases increased from 10 to 70.

“From late-February to early March, there has been a downward trend in the weekly reported number of Lassa fever cases with less than 20 cases reported each week in March and only five new cases reported in the week ending April 15, 2018.”

One of the spokespersons of NAHCON, Mousa Ubandawaki, who confirmed the moves by Saudi Arabia to Premium Times said that Nigerian authorities are not taking the threat lightly.

“There will be an expanded meeting of all officials from the 36 states, the Commission and officials of the Federal Government to discuss the matter on Tuesday,”  Ubandawaki said.

The NAHCON official said the meeting will hold at the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF).