Friday, April 19, 2024

Tour operators seek FG’s intervention in Umrah visa racketeering

NAHCON recently confirmed a shortage of Umrah visas for Nigerian Muslims.

• April 1, 2024
Umrah (Photo Credit: Guardian Nigeria)

Some licensed tour operators in Nigeria have called on the federal government to intervene in the alleged racketeering of Umrah (lesser hajj) visas in the country.

In an interview with journalists on Monday in Abuja, the operators said the situation had made it difficult for some Nigerians willing to fulfil their religious obligation to get visas.

The chief executive officer of Mohdibra Travels, Mohammed Ibrahim, alleged that some agents in Saudi Arabia had hijacked the Umrah visa to the detriment of approved licensed tour operators in Nigeria.

He urged the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) to discharge its responsibilities proactively.

Mr Ibrahim lamented that operators pay charges to the Nigerian and Saudi Arabian governments but are not accessing the Umrah visa portal, accruing billions of losses.

” We paid 2,000 Saudi riyals for the portal to be opened, but the agents in Saudi Arabia are telling us that the quota has not been approved, not knowing that the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah have sent us an email that it has been approved.

” The visa costs between 800 and 900 Saudi riyals on the system; that is in the portal for hajj and Umrah, but it is being sold by different agents in Saudi Arabia between 1500 and 2000 Saudi Riyals, which is equivalent to N620,000,” Mr Ibrahim said.

Another tour operator who pleaded for anonymity, decried the infiltration of non licensed tour operators into the business.

” Some of our passengers bought tickets, but they did not have visas. Visas are still coming out of Saudi Arabia, not Nigeria because most visas in Nigeria do not work.

” There is injustice in the visas being issued to Nigerians and we are calling on the Federal Government to intervene in order to save our business,” he said.

NAHCON recently confirmed a shortage of Umrah visas for Nigerian Muslims.

A statement by the commission’s spokesperson, Fatima Sanda-Usara, said the commission would continue to work tirelessly in collaboration with relevant stakeholders to resolve the visa inaccessibility satisfactorily.

The statement explained that the high demand for Umrah Visas during Ramadan further exacerbated the shortage.

It also disclosed that NAHCON had officially written a letter communicating its concerns directly to Saudi Arabia, outlining the implications of unavailable visas for Nigerian Tour Operators. 


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