Amidst tight security by the Saudi authorities, about three million Muslims from across the world, yesterday, relocated to Muna ahead of today’s Arafat, climaxing the 2016 Muslims pilgrimage.
But unlike in the previous exercises, this year’s critical religious exercise is being conducted under very security, apparently to avoid last year’s stampede at the stoning of the devil, at Jamarat, which led to the loss of over 2000 lives.
Nigeria lost about 400 pilgrims in that stampede, with scores yet unaccounted for. Similarly, Iran, suffered more casualties.Muslims, who started their movement from Makkah on Friday night, completed the movement yesterday, preparatory to the movement to Mount Arafat today, where they are expected to offer a whole day prayers.
Scores of Nigerian leaders, including the governors of Nasarawa and Kogi states, Umaru Tanko Al-Makura and Yahaya Bello, members of the National Assembly, including the Senate Leader, Mohammed Ali Ndume, Chairman Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, Monsurat Sumonu, Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Nigeria-Saudi Inter-Parliamentary Friendship and Hajj Affairs, Abdullahi Balarabe Salame, as well as, the Etsu Nupe, Dr. Yahya Abubakar are attending this year’s Holy pilgrimage As part of the preparations, the Saudi authorities said they have deployed a fleet of 177 ambulances to the critical cities where the pilgrimages are being held. In addition, the Saudi Red Crescent is expected to deploy air ambulance to tackle emergency situations, particularly during the stoning of the devil at Jamarat near Mina.
At a meeting of the National Hajj Committee, a representative of the Saudi Arabia Hajj Ministry, Sheikh Mohammed, said arrangements have been concluded to assign guides who would lead a group of 250 pilgrims at a time to the Jamarat and back. He said the government was putting measures in place to avoid the kind of stampede that happened last year, noting that any Pilgrim seen alone in Jamarat would be arrested and would be made to face the highest punishment.
He also said each group would not be led by a Saudi guide alone, but, that states would also nominate a guide for each group. Mohammed also said apart from the arrest and prosecution of any violating Pilgrim, state officials responsible for the Pilgrim would also face sanction.
The official, who spoke through an official of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria, (NAHCON) Aliyu Tanko as an interpreter, said the government was adopting the kind of schedule used for airlines at the Airport.Mohammed said records of all groupings would be taken at the departure from tents and back, adding that guides would be held strictly responsible if they failed to return with the exact number of pilgrims they took to the Jamarat for the stoning ritual.
Similarly, during the Stakeholders’ meeting organised by the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria, (NAHCON) various speakers harped on the need for Nigerian pilgrims to observe the security measures put in place by the Saudi authorities to avert the kind of stampede that trailed last year’s hajj.
In his remarks, the Charge d’ Affairs Nigerian Embassy in Riyadh, Amb. Salihu Umar warned Nigerian pilgrims to strictly obey the security measures put in place by the Saudi authorities to forestall the breakdown of law and order. He assured the missions in Saudi Arabia had put in place strategies for a hitch-free hajj for Nigerians, but urged them to subject themselves to the rules and regulations of the Saudi government.