56 Nigerians Confirmed Dead In Saudi Hajj Stampede, Many Still Missing; MURIC Explains How It Happened
As Saudi Arabia authorities are still trying to ascertain the identities of those affected in last Thursday hajj stampede which resulted t the death of over 700 pilgrims, 56 Nigerians have so far been confirmed dead.
This was disclosed last night at a news conference in Makkah by the Chairman of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), Abdullahi Mukhtar
According to him, 77 others were injured, while many still missing.
The NAHCON chief said most of the victims and the injured came from the North.
Some of the affected states are Bauchi, Borno, Cross River, Jigawa, Kebbi, Kaduna, Katsina, Nasarawa, Niger, Sokoto, Yobe, Taraba, Zamfara, Ogun
Mukhtar said: “42 pilgrims under the State Pilgrims Welfare Boards have been confirmed dead alongside two officials from NAHCON. Also, 12 pilgrims who came in through tour operators died in the stampede too.
“I think 61 state pilgrims welfare boards and 16 from tour operators (Private Hajj Operators) got injured in the stampede. We will update you as the information comes.”
On the missing pilgrims, he said:”We cannot give you the full figure until the ongoing head count is concluded.”
Meanwhile, Prof. Ishaq Akintola, the Director of Muslim Rights Concern, an Islamic has recounted how the incident occurred.
Akintola said: “As eyewitnesses of the gory stampede incident, we testify that it was caused by security breakdown on the part of the Saudi authorities. We left Muzdalifah for Mina around 6am on that fateful day. We branched in the NAHCON camp to drop our personal effects and headed straight to Jamrat which was less than three kilometres away. To our surprise, the road was blocked by Egyptian pilgrims who had cast their own stones and were returning to their camp. Instead of taking the route designated for returning pilgrims, they stubbornly took the route meant for those who were going.
“The road became narrow and movement became difficult. The atmosphere became charged and even breathing and visibility were affected. The few policemen around desperately threw water at us to save us from collapsing. It became glaring to us at that moment that a monumental stampede was just around the corner
“The Saudi authorities therefore lied when they tried to put the blame squarely on African pilgrims. The stampede would not have occurred at all if Saudi security agents had disallowed pilgrims returning from the Jamrat from taking the same route on their way back.
“The practice over the years has always been to take a detour but this was not enforced last Thursday. The fact that the road to the same Jamrat became very free and safe yesterday and this (Saturday) morning when Saudi security agents strictly enforced the rules by disallowing returning pilgrims to use the same route as those going proves that our hypothesis is correct.
“This is criminal negligence and the Saudi authorities must be held accountable. We urge the Nigerian government to support NAHCON’s stand on this. Nigeria must demand compensation from the Saudis for families of the bereaved.
“We should also task the Saudis to involve the world Muslim Ummah in the planning and implementation of the annual Hajj exercise in view of the emerging scenario of complacency on the part of the Saudi authorities.”
MURIC hailed NAHCON for insisting that Nigeria should be part of any investigation of the tragedy.