Senate President, Bukola Saraki, has criticized the entry visa issuance policy of the Saudi Arabian embassy in Nigeria for this year’s lesser hajj, umrah.
Mr. Saraki, who arrived Medinah on Saturday, listened to complaints from some Nigerians who are performing the lesser hajj and noted that the Saudi authorities, unlike other embassies in the country, refused to articulate a visa policy which potential visitors to the holy land can follow and obtain their entry visa without any difficulty once they meet the requirements.
“The present process in which visitors to Saudi must go through a third party has created artificial bottlenecks now being exploited by the travel agents and the embassy officials. Our people are now made to suffer indignities arising from conspiracy between the embassy officials and the so-called agents. The process is fraught with corrupt practices,” he said.
The Senate President said some Nigerians informed him that they had to send their passports through Saudi embassies in other West African countries where the cost of the visa was less and they did not need to go through the hardship experienced in Nigeria.
“It is unimaginable the amount of money people paid to get visa for this year’s lesser hajj and we do not want that to repeat itself for the hajj proper coming in a few months’ time. You know this religious rites and obligations are very important to our people and so, despite these inconveniences, they still struggle to get here and we have a responsibility to ensure this exploitation and inconvenience stop immediately,” Mr. Saraki said.
He reassured Nigerians who complained to him that the Saudi visa policy will be one of the issues the Senate will look into when it resumes plenary later in the month and that the Saudi authorities as well as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Abuja will be engaged to find a lasting solution to the problems of visa issuance to Nigerians by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The Senate President further called on all Nigerian Muslims on lesser hajj and those at home to devote the last days of Ramadan to pray for peace, security, development and progress of Nigeria.
He urged them to specifically ask for Allah’s intervention in the search for a lasting solution to the Boko Haram crisis in the North-Eastern part of the country and for God to help President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration to revamp the economy of Nigeria.