By Fatima Sanda Usara
The Chairman, National Hajj Commission of Nigeria, NAHCON, Alhaji Zikrullah Kunle Hassan, has once again appealed to new Saudi Arabian Ambassador to Nigeria, His Excellency Faisal Al-Ghamdi, to cooperate with NAHCON in ensuring that only Private Tour Operators with valid Umrah licence will be allowed to process visas for Umrah applicants.
Hassan, in the company of Alhaji Magaji Hardawa, NAHCON’s Commissioner Operations paid a courtesy visit to the diplomat in his office to welcome him as well as to discuss issues of mutual benefit to both parties.
The NAHCON boss had sought the support of the new ambassador in curbing excesses of unlicensed operators who ferry visa violators to Saudi Arabia under the guise of Hajj and Umrah.
The envoy reaffirmed that only tour operators whose company’s documents are authenticated, updated and are uploaded on the Saudi Arabian Umrah portal would have access to visa processing permit.
In line with this appeal, NAHCON had on 25th January 2021 published a first list of about 170 Umrah Licensed Tour Operators in some national dailies.
Additional applicants are being screened and successful ones will be published as soon as verification is completed. It would be recalled that the Kingdom had on 8th January, 2021 lifted international travel ban into the Kingdom thereby granting conditional access for performance of Umrah.
Some of the conditions include; persons must present a mandatory Covid-19 negative test result administered 72 hours before departure into the Kingdom. Also, travellers are to observe a mandatory three-day self-isolation after arrival into the Kingdom after which another Covid-19 test will be administered by the Saudi authorities.
It is advised that any Umrah intending pilgrim having symptoms of fever or cold, or who has been exposed to a Covid-19 infected person, should delay such trips until the pilgrim’s status is confirmed.
In another development, the Saudi Arabian delegation scheduled to inspect Nigerian airports in readiness for Makkah Route Initiative has taken off.