A civil society organisation has raised alarm over the suspension of direct flights to Saudi Arabia informed by the COVID-19 Omicron Variants, less than 30 days to the holy month of Ramadan.
The Independent Hajj Reporters in a statement by its national coordinator, Ibrahim Muhammed in Kaduna decried that the continued suspension of direct flight from Nigeria by the Saudi government may hinder Umrah pilgrims from Nigeria to perform the holy pilgrimage.
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Recall that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia had announced the suspension of flights in a circular to all airlines operating in the Kingdom in December last year.
The circular dated 8th of December 2021 with circular number 27682/5 and addressed to all airlines operating in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia said all passengers coming from Nigeria are suspended except for those who have spent a period of not less than (14) fourteen days in another country from which they are allowed entrance.
The Federal Government later pleaded with Saudi Arabia to lift the travel restrictions it imposed on Nigerian travellers following the outbreak of the COVID-19 omicron variant in South Africa that was later discovered among some travellers said to have visited Nigeria.
However, the minister in a statement signed by his spokesman, Ibrahim Aliyu had urged the Saudi Authorities to review the travel restrictions it placed on Nigerians over the Omicron outbreak as it has already done for many countries that were earlier banned alongside Nigeria.
He argued that other countries that had earlier suspended direct flight from Nigeria have lifted the suspension when World Health Organisation declared that the new variants do not pose much threat.
Aliyu said, “Countries like the United Kingdom, United States of America, Canada, United Arab Emirates, Australia and France has since lifted the ban placed on Nigeria and other countries.
“The World Health Organization (WHO) had said through a statement on international travel regulations that the international travel ban should be lifted or eased since the strict measures have proven to be ineffective.”
He added, “Every year, Nigerian Muslims flock to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to perform lesser hajj, especially during the period of Ramadan. The COVID-19 pandemic has prevented many intending Umrah pilgrims from travelling in the last year.” He then appeal to the Saudi Arabian Ambassador to Nigeria, Ambassador Faisal bin Ebraheem Al-Ghamdi to use his good office and ensure that the suspension is lifted.