NAHCON assures on resolving Ramadan Umrah visa shortage

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By Olugbenga Salami

National Hajj Commission of Nigeria, NAHCON, on Tuesday assured all Nigerian Umrah hopefuls that it remains committed to resolving the issue surrounding the shortage of visa for the performance of their lesser Hajj, Umrah.

The commission, in a statement signed by its Assistant Director of Public Affairs, Fatima Sanda Usara, said it “will continue to work tirelessly in collaboration with relevant stakeholders to find a satisfactory resolution to the visa inaccessibility.”

Although the statement explained that the high demand for Umrah visas during Ramadan further exacerbates the shortage, it informed that NAHCON has officially written a letter communicating its concerns directly to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, outlining the implications of unavailable visas for Nigerian Tour Operators, adding that the commission’s chairman, Malam Jalal Ahmad Arabi, has personally visited the Saudi Embassy in Nigeria to explore potential solutions to the matter.

“The current challenges faced by Nigerian Muslims in obtaining Umrah visas for travel to Saudi Arabia during Ramadan are deeply regrettable and primarily stem from the misuse of privileges granted in the visa issuance process.

“Umrah visas are allocated to countries based on quotas with Ramadan Umrah visas usually more expensive. Recently, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia extended the visa validity to 90 days. It is obvious many Nigerians secured these visas at lower costs during other periods, obviously in anticipation of performing Umrah during the holy month of Ramadan With them.

“These individuals exploited the visa validity extension by either prolonging their stays in the kingdom or holding onto visas without utilizing them until Ramadan, resulting in a shortage of available visas slots for other Nigerians,” the statement reads.

It added that “so far, few visas do drop occasionally based on the number of Nigerians that free up the space by departing from Saudi Arabia, but paying for such few slots is a gamble, hence pilgrims for the lesser Hajj are advised to be wiser.”