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Umrah: NAHCON blames abuse of visas for hiccups

The National Hajj Commission (NAHCON) has stated that the non utilisation of visas earlier approved by Saudi Arabia for some Nigerians to visit the country…

The National Hajj Commission (NAHCON) has stated that the non utilisation of visas earlier approved by Saudi Arabia for some Nigerians to visit the country is the reason for the hardship in getting new ones for those planning to perform Umrah in the month of Ramadan.

Daily Trust had reported how Nigerians faced difficulty in getting visas to perform Umrah in the holy month of Ramadan.

A statement by NAHCON’s Assistant Director, Public Affairs, Fatuma Sanda Usara, on Tuesday, stated that Umrah visas were allocated to countries based on quotas with Ramadan Umrah visas usually more expensive.

While stating that Saudi Arabia extended the visa validity to 90 days, many Nigerians secured the visas at lower costs during other periods in anticipation of performing Umrah during the holy month of Ramadan with them.

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“These individuals exploited the visa validity extension by either prolonging their stays in the kingdom or holding onto visas without utilizing them until Ramadan, resulting in a shortage of available visas slots for other Nigerians.”

Usara explained that the high demand for Umrah visas during Ramadan further exacerbated this shortage.

“So far, few visas do drop occasionally based on number of Nigerians that free up the space by departing from Saudi Arabia, but paying for such few slots is a gamble hence pilgrims for the lesser Hajj are advised to be wiser.”

She, however, said efforts were being made in addressing the issue as its Saudi Liaison Officer has engaged in multiple discussions with the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah over the situation.

“Though these discussions have been constructive, he affirmed that the visa allocation follow a computerized system.”

“Additionally, NAHCON has officially written a letter communicating its concerns directly to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, outlining the implications of unavailable visas for Nigerian Tour Operators. Furthermore, the Chairman of NAHCON, Malam Jalal Ahmad Arabi, has personally visited the Saudi embassy in Nigeria to explore potential solutions to this matter.”

“We want to assure all Nigerian Umrah hopefuls that NAHCON remains committed to resolving this issue. NAHCON will continue to work tirelessly in collaboration with relevant stakeholders to find a satisfactory resolution to the visa inaccessibility.”

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