Saudi Arabia to Limit 2021 Hajj to 60,000 Pilgrims
Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja
For the second successive year, an emphatically large number of Nigerian intending pilgrims may not be able to perform the 2021 Hajj in Saudi Arabia, after the country announced that only 60,000 pilgrims would be allowed to carry out one of the key Islamic rites from across the world.
The decision taken yesterday by the Saudi health authorities was a precaution against the transmission of COVID-19 among the local population and the international contingents.
It will come as a disappointment for the projected 100,000 Nigerians who were hoping to embark on the spiritual trip this year to Mecca and Madinah.
According to reports, the Saudi authorities will only allow 45,000 pilgrims from the rest of the world to perform the Hajj while the remaining 15,000 will be those who reside in Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi Special Representative on Religious Harmony, Maulana Tahir Ashrafi, was also quoted as effectively ruling that people under the age of 18 and above 60 years are ineligible for the hajj.
The Saudi Health Ministry also stated that pilgrims must have had both doses of COVID-19 vaccine with a vaccination card provided by the individual countries’ health organisations, while intending pilgrims must also not have been in hospitals for any illness within the past six months prior to travelling for the hajj.
But in a reaction yesterday, the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) said the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah was yet to make the pronouncement on the 2021 hajj.
According to NAHCON’s Head of Public Affair, Fatima Sanda Usara, the materials emanating from the Saudi Ministry of Health as suggestive of guidelines for a peculiar hajj disrupted by COVID-19, the final decision, however, will come from the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, which will either endorse the released guidelines or issue the final position of the kingdom contrary to the release by the Saudi Ministry of Health.
Nigerian pilgrims were unable to perform the hajj, which is one of the five pillars of Islam, last year because of the restrictions on international travels occasioned by the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic, and Saudi Arabia’s decision to limit the number of the pilgrims that carried out the exercise to only 10,000 pilgrims from within the country.