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Nigerian Pilgrims Live, Dine in Refuse in Mecca During Haj


By Nuruddeen M. Abdallah

4 November 2012

The place where Nigerian pilgrims stayed in Mina, Saudi Arabia, was an eyesore as the tents were taken over by mounts of refuse. Weekly Trust reports how the pilgrims lived and dined among refuse during the three day camping in Mina, on the outskirts of Mecca.

As part of the annual Hajj rites, pilgrims gather in Mina, a 'tent city' situated about five kilometres from Mecca, from where they converge on the plains of Arafat.

This year, the 85,000 Nigerian pilgrims, like their counterparts from other parts of the world, moved to Mina on October 24, 2012, equivalent to 8 Zhul Hijja, marking the beginning of 2012 hajj rites. But 24 hours later, the Nigerian pilgrims' tents were taken over by refuse.

On Friday afternoon, the dual carriage way leading to the pilgrims' tents was overwhelmed by garbage.

Most of the entrances to the various states' tents accommodation were pilgrims were camped, bearing the banners of most of the states, were covered and blocked by piles of refuse.

Despite the odour emanating from this dirt, Nigerian pilgrims were seen eating while perching near the refuse.

There were tens of waste disposal bins that were unattended to though they were filled with wastes. Weekly Trust learnt that some of the tents were never cleaned throughout the pilgrims' stay in Mina.

On Saturday, the piles of refuse accumulated more and there were no cleaners, mostly Bengalis, to attend to them.

At the entrances to the tents accommodation of pilgrims from Zamfara, Jigawa, Sokoto, Gombe, Adamawa and Borno states were apparently blocked by the mount of odour-bearing rubbish.

Dining In Rubbish

The situation worsened Saturday night, when pilgrims were seen eating amidst piles of refuse. At about 1pm local time, Jigawa State pilgrims were spotted in queue amidst piles of refuse receiving dinner from officials of Jigawa State Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Board.

Alhaji Yakubu, a pilgrim from Jigawa told Weekly Trust that "we have no option than to live in this despicable condition. We have no option actually. Some people somewhere are not doing the right thing."

The situation is still the same inside some of the tents on Saturday night. Inside Jigawa State tent, for instance, pilgrims were seen sleeping besides heaps of refuse and overflowing dustbins.

In Zamfara State tent, pilgrims were seen sleeping in front of toilets. Some of the states pilgrims' boards' banners were covered by mount of refuse.

It was observed that though the Nigerian tents were eyesore, the situation was not the same with other tents occupied by other countries.

"I am just coming from Jamarat, I passed through areas occupied by pilgrims from Turkey, Egypt, Iran, among other countries. Their areas are clean without refuse. Their roads are clean even though they have more pilgrims than Nigeria. It is just terrible," Alhaji Musa from Zamfara State told Weekly Trust.

A member of the Inspection, Evaluation and Compliance Committee of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), who spoke to Weekly Trust on Saturday night while on inspection tour, said "the Saudi service providers didn't live up to expectation. The service providers have failed in their responsibility. They reneged on the agreement of cleaning the tents."

"We have observed so many irregularities. We have seen pilgrims sleeping outside, eating besides dustbins as well as piles of refuse in front of pilgrims tents, which is very despicable. We have noted all this and it will form part of our report," the official said.

Weekly Trust learnt that even the VIP tents, a stone throw from Jamarat, where the Nigerian Amirul Hajj and Sultan of Sokoto was accommodated was not free of refuse. On Saturday night, just in front of luxurious Tent A, where the Sultan and his delegation were camped, was a pile of refuse.

Pilgrims Must Be Compensated

National Secretary of the Independent Hajj Reporters, a non-governmental organisation, Alhaji Ibrahim Muhammed, told Weekly Trust that "all Saudi service providers that reneged in providing services to Nigerian pilgrims must make refund."

"You can imagine the health devastation these mounts of refuse can cause should it rain in Mina. The entire area would be flooded and Nigerian pilgrims would be devastated by cholera, among other water-borne diseases," he said.

"It is a pity that Nigerian pilgrims are treated like prisoners. Look at this mess everywhere, go round and make comparison. The irony is that nobody is doing any pilgrim a favour, because every bit of service is paid for by the pilgrim.

"We are urging the National Hajj Commission (NAHCON) to demand compensation from Saudi Hajj authorities on behalf of Nigerian pilgrims. Pilgrims paid for cleaning of tents in Mina, it is, therefore, pertinent that refunds be made where such services were not rendered," Muhammed said.

Saudi Service Providers' Fault

Head of Environmental Health Officers Unit of NAHCON Medical Team, Alhaji Jafaru Ahmed Gwarzo, said the Saudi service providers should be blamed for the situation.

The Saudi environmental taskforce (Baladiyya) is responsible for the cleaning of the areas in both Mecca and Mina while the Establishment for Mutawwif for African non-Arab countries is responsible for cleaning the tents of the pilgrims, according to Gwarzo.

He said he drew the attention of the head of the environmental taskforce in Mecca, Hassan Shuayb, when the refuse kept on piling without being attended to.

"I was made to understand that the Saudi authorities contracted the cleaning project to a private company at 300 million Saudi Riyals, but the company couldn't cope and the Saudi King had to fine the company about 21 million Saudi Riyals. Unlike the government agency handling the exercise, the new firm is overwhelmed, that is why they couldn't cope," NAHCON environment chief said.

Gwarzo said the mess inside some of the Nigerian pilgrims' tents in Mina was due "to understaffing by the respective Muassasa handling the services.

"The service providers engaged under-aged boys and girls who are inexperienced and overwhelmed.”Sokoto tents were not cleaned at all when I visited. I had to meet with the state officials including the state deputy governor and head of service and urged them to speak to the appropriate authorities to remedy the situation."