Avoid kola nuts, other contraband, Akeugbagold advises pilgrims

THE chairman of the Oyo State Pilgrims’ Welfare Board (Muslim Wing), Alhaji Taofeek Akeugbagold, has warned pilgrims to avoid taking contraband along with them on the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, especially kola nuts and drugs, saying that the Saudi authorities disapprove of such items and will arrest anyone found culpable.

Akeugbagold, who gave the warning on Thursday, also disclosed that 480 out of 1,354 pilgrims from the state were already in Saudi Arabia, in high spirits.

He said that the pilgrims already in Saudi Arabia visited historical areas in Madinah on Thursday and would spend a week in that city before moving to Makkah.

Alhaji Akeugbagold said further that 90 percent of the remaining pilgrims would today depart Ibadan for Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, where they would be screened till tomorrow before departing late in the day to arrive in Saudi Arabia on Sunday morning.

He said that the remaining pilgrims would leave by the middle of next week while the chairman would stay behind to be sure that all pilgrims had left and to attend to complaints.

Speaking on the challenges encountered, Akeugbagold, who stated that each Hajj process usually had its challenges yearly, pointed out that this year’s was the issuance of visa because of its electronic process.

He, however, expressed delight ICT officials of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) were now on top of the situation.

On the delay in giving Basic Travelling Allowance (BTA) to pilgrims, he said those who were in Saudi Arabia had got theirs while those who were yet to go would get theirs before leaving Nigeria.

He warned the pilgrims against violation of rules, saying that they should avoid eating kola nut before boarding because it would reflect in their blood at the point of entry in Saudi Arabia.

The chairman disclosed that information had reached him from Saudi authorities that pilgrims have been warned against coming with any book other than the Qur’an.

The information, he said, indicated that a prayer book called Dalaail u’l Khayraat, a famous collection of prayers for the Prophet Muhammad, is not accepted by the Saudi authorities.

“According to Saudi Council of Ulamas, it is overdose of As-salat for the holy Prophet. The Prophet is over-praised in the book and they said that they don’t want it. Even those holding the book were arrested. So, any form of prayer book should not be taken to Saudi. All they want to see with pilgrims is the Qur’an,” Akeugbagold stressed.

He added that the authorities also warned against hanging bogus rosaries around the neck at the point of entry.

“There is also a certain part of prayer called al-Hatimi. Anything containing such is seen as crime and anyone found with it will be arrested.

“Pilgrims should also submit their drugs to our medical doctors. They should not take ordinary paracetamol along with them,” he warned.

He disclosed that those who took sleeping drugs were detected when the drugs reflected in the blood while being tested at the point of entry, resulting in their subjection to a lot of tests to be sure that they were ordinary sleeping tablets.

“So, pilgrims should avoid any form of sedative drugs; they should wait till they get to Saudi Arabia where there are better drugs,” the chairman advised.

On those who are on anti-hypertensive drugs, Alhaji Akeugbagold said that they should just take the needed ones before leaving Nigeria.

“Our doctors will speak for them in Saudi if it is found in their blood but they should not take the drugs along. I repeat: all drugs should be kept with our doctors,” he emphasised.