By Olugbenga Salami
National Hajj Commission of Nigeria, NAHCON has warned the Licensed Tour Operators and State Pilgrims’ Welfare Boards against breaching the Saudi Arabian immigration laws before, during and after hajj operations in the holy land.
Executive Chairman of the Commission, Malam Abdullahi Mukhtar Muhammad gave the warning at a meeting held on Thursday in Abuja with members of the Association of Hajj and Umrah Operators of Nigeria, AHUON and some Executives Secretaries of State Pilgrims Welfare Boards.
According to a statement by the Head, Public Affairs Division of NAHCON, Hajia Fatima Sanda Usara, the meeting was geared towards addressing issues relating to the breach of Saudi immigration laws by some tour operators and state pilgrims’ welfare boards.
The statement said that report at the commission indicated that some states and licensed tour operators had pilgrims that overstayed their visas in the Kingdom, thereby infringing on the Saudi Arabian laws.
The commission drew the attention of participants to the security risk as well as the bad image the embarrassing situation brings upon the country.
It said NAHCON urged all stakeholders present at the meeting to educate their pilgrims on the proper mode of applying for extension of stay visa in Saudi Arabia if needs be.
The commission also warned that any state under which this contravention persists risks having its licensed downgraded or withdrawal of a tour operator’s licence.
“This is in addition to possible prosecution of defaulters in accordance with the laws of the land.
“To tackle this menace, tour operators and states are directed to intensify enlightenment of pilgrims on consequences of overstaying in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Also, “Revoking of tour operator’s licence if found negligent and introduction of guarantor forms for pilgrims under tour operators in 2019 Hajj registration”.
It said the commission would not tolerate violation of Saudi regulations adding that it had a responsibility to safeguard terms and conditions of engagement as stated in the Memorandum of Understanding.