SENIOR Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, Honourable Abike Dabiri-Erewa, has reiterated her warning to intending Muslim pilgrims yet to depart for 2016 Hajj exercise to resist any temptation to take hard drugs to Saudi Arabia.
In a statement by her Special Assistant on Media, Abdur-Rahman Balogun, the Dabiri-Erewa said that despite repeated warnings and workshops for intending pilgrims, it was disheartening that some Nigerians still ran broke Saudi Arabia’ law.
Noting that some Nigerians caught with hard drugs in Saudi Arabia in the last few years remain on death row, she pleaded with pilgrims to shun the shameful act.
Dabiri-Erewa also reminded the pilgrims that kola nuts and prescription painkillers have been banned in Saudi Arabia and their possession attracts severe penalties, according to new Saudi Arabia regulations.
She said the Federal Government, through the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) and various state pilgrims boards, had made adequate arrangements to attend to the medical needs of the pilgrims in Saudi Arabia.
Similarly, she said Saudi Arabia has free medical centres in all the nooks and crannies of the Kingdom equipped with all drugs for their medical needs.
She urged the security agencies and other paramilitary bodies stationed at the various departure centres in Nigeria to screen the pilgrims before their departure for the holy land.
Dabiri-Erewa advised Nigerian pilgrims to be good ambassadors of the country by portraying Nigeria in good image and pray for peace, unity and progress of the country in the Holy land.
Since the beginning of transportation of pilgrims to Saudi Arabia on August 15, more than five Nigerians have been arrested for alleged possession of substance suspected to be hard drugs as well as kola nuts.
It will be recalled that the Saudi Arabian authorities have asked Nigerian pilgrims not to bring kola nuts during the 2016 Hajj.
“All those who intend to perform Hajj are, therefore, advised to adhere strictly to the Saudi rules and regulations on prohibited items,” NAHCON said in a statement.
The commission also urged Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Boards (MPWB) and licensed tour operators to properly educate pilgrims to avoid penal actions on those found in violation of the instruction on smuggling kola nut.
Kola nut, a caffeine-based edible seed, is usually known as ‘goro’ and ‘oji’ and is often used ceremonially by Nigerians to show a gesture of friendship and warmth. It is also used in the production of beverage and energy drinks.
More than 70,000 Nigerian pilgrims are expected to perform 2016 Hajj.