Nigeria Faces Potential Exodus of Intending Umrah Pilgrims Amid Visa Issue

Thousands of intending pilgrims from Nigeria may miss the opportunity to perform the 2024 Ramadan Umrah pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia due to the decision of authorities to halt the issuance of Umrah visas. The abrupt development has triggered anxiety and agitation among intending pilgrims, especially with Ramadan well underway.

Reports indicate that the decision has already led to the cancellation or rescheduling of several flights meant to convey intending pilgrims for the Umrah exercise. One flight from Kano to Saudi Arabia, scheduled to depart with over 300 intending Umrah pilgrims, was unable to proceed due to visa issuance delays.

Traditionally, Ramadan is considered an Umrah season in Nigeria and other countries, with many Muslims aspiring to spend the last 10 days of the fasting month in Saudi Arabia to perform the lesser hajj. However, the current situation has thrown their plans into disarray.

The visa issue has been attributed to a new visa policy introduced by Saudi authorities, which includes a visa validity of three months and a duration of stay limited to two weeks. Many intending pilgrims had secured visas since the month of Rajab but delayed their entry until Ramadan due to the visa’s extended validity period. However, complications have arisen, leading to delays and uncertainty.

Travel agents and officials from the Association of Hajj and Umrah Operators of Nigeria (AHUON) have expressed concerns about the financial implications of the visa issue. The situation has resulted in losses for operators, as they are forced to reschedule flights or refund clients’ money due to visa delays or denials.

While the exact number of affected pilgrims remains uncertain, estimates suggest that thousands may miss the opportunity to perform Umrah this year due to the visa issue. The predicament has prompted calls for intervention from the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) to address the challenges faced by intending pilgrims.

Meanwhile, the decision by Saudi authorities to suspend Umrah visa issuance during the holy month of Ramadan aims to alleviate congestion and ensure a smoother pilgrimage experience for all pilgrims. However, the sudden halt in visa issuance has left many Nigerian pilgrims in limbo, hoping for a resolution to their predicament soon.

As the situation unfolds, stakeholders continue to navigate the complexities of organizing pilgrimage activities amidst the evolving visa policies and logistical challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kindly share this story: