ABOUT 359 of the Nigerian pilgrims who were left stranded in Saudi Arabia have returned to Abuja today after the Nigerian Diaspora Commission (Nidcom) helped facilitate their return to the country.
Around this time last year at the height of the global pandemic, around 11,600 Nigerians were left stranded in Saudi Arabia by the coronavirus lockdown as they were unable to leave due to the closure of aviation facilities. Nigeria has the seventh number of hajj pilgrims in the world, with numbers totalling between 65,000 and 80,00 annually.
Over the last year, however, the pilgrims have gradually returned and as the lockdown eases, the process has been accelerated over the last week. According to the Nidcom chair Hon Abike Dabiri-Erewa, the latest batch returnees arrived at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja on a Saudi Air Flight this morning.
It is believed that most of the affected pilgrims had visited Saudi Arabia for umrah, the lesser hajj and were held up by the movement restrictions. According to Hon Dabiri-Erewa, the returnees join the 255 who returned yesterday bringing the total number of returnees over the last week to 650.
Hon Dabiri-Erewa said: “Arrival for the third batch is expected before the end of the week. The returnees shall proceed on quarantine at the Federal Capital Territory hajj camp in line with the Covid-19 protocols laid down by the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19.”