Nigerians participating in the 2023 hajj pilgrimage have decried the lack of enough tents at Mina, the capital city of Niger State, a camping site pilgrims lodge before going to Mount Arafat.
According to a traveler who spoke with DAILY TRUST NEWSPAPER, anonymously said, they were in unconducive situation as they were out without any amenity while fending for themselves under the excruciating sun in the city.
“It was surprising when we came to Mina on Monday to learn that there was no tent for us. The sun was intense and at first, we looked for clothes to cover our head but when the inconvenience got out of hand, we had to take cover under a bridge.”
While stating that the situation did not only affect Nigerian pilgrims as those from other African countries were with them, the person said she was a state of confusion on how to complete the long walk to Arafat on Tuesday.
“Coming here without access to a roof to cover our heads, water and other necessity is wrong. What we were told form the tour operator was that welfare here is in the hands of the Saudi Authorities, even food we are yet to be given.”
However, DAILY TRUST NEWSPAER, confirming the incident, a Civil Society Organisation, Independent Hajj Reporters (IHR), noted that thousands of pilgrims were stranded in the location.
In a statement, it attributed the situation to two major issues and lapses.
“Firstly, the Muassasa, the Saudi company tasked with the welfare of non-Arab Africans, allocated the same number of tents to Nigerian pilgrims this year as they did last year. However, while the Nigerian contingent to Hajj 2022 was about 45,000, Saudi Authorities allocated 95,000 slots this year. It therefore, makes no sense that the same spaces are allocated for the two contingents.”
“Secondly, the Saudi based security personnel deployed to man the tents in the area allocated to Nigerian pilgrims opened the entrances much earlier than the arrival of real pilgrims and the fake ones, mostly made up of illegal immigrants from Nigeria, popularly called “Tukari”, took over the spaces.”
But reacting to the tent shortage at Mina, the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) said it is fully aware of the situation and promised to address it promptly and transparently.
In a statement by its Deputy Director of Information, Mousa Ubandawaki, the agency said the commission initially planned for 95,000 slots but the tents given by Saudi Arabia was not enough.
“As of 7:30am today, all states had completed their first phase of the movement to Mina except Kano, Kaduna, Niger, Borno, some tour operators and the South Eastern States only for the pilgrims to be met with shortage of tent spaces.”
“This is owing to insufficient planning by the Mu’assasah, there was a downturn in tent space deliveries. This unforeseen situation has been compounded by some pilgrims occupying multiple slots that could have been utilized by others, thereby exacerbating the shortage.”
“We would like to assure all pilgrims that we are fully committed to resolving this situation swiftly and effectively. Our teams are working round the clock to provide the necessary support and additional resources to ensure the comfort and security of every Nigerian to alleviate our pilgrims’ inconveniences.”
He further apologized to the pilgrims for the inconvenience caused and asked for their patience and understanding.