Senate President Bukola Saraki

Senate President, Abubakar Bukola Saraki has taken a swipe on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for its unfavourable entry visa issuance policy imposed on Nigerians for this year’s lesser hajj.

Senator Saraki who arrived Medinah on July 11 for the spiritual exercise said in a statement issued through his Special Adviser (Media and Publicity), Yusuph Olaniyonu, decried what he called the refusal of Saudi embassy in Nigeria “to articulate a visa policy which potential visitors to the holy land can follow and obtain their entry visa without any difficulty once they meet the requirement.”

“The present process in which visitors to Saudi must go through a third party has created artificial bottlenecks now being exploited by the travel agents and the embassy officials. Our people are now made to suffer indignities arising from conspiracy between the embassy officials and the so-called agents. The process is fraught with corrupt practices,” he alleged.

The Senate President said some Nigerians informed him that they had to send their passports through Saudi embassies in other West African countries where the cost of the visa was less and they did not need to go through the hardship experienced in Nigeria.

“It is unimaginable the amount of money people paid to get visa for this year’s lesser hajj and we do not want that to repeat itself for the hajj proper coming in a few months’ time. You know these religious rites and obligations are very important to our people and so, despite these inconveniences, they still struggle to get here and we have a responsibility to ensure this exploitation and inconvenience stop immediately,” Saraki said.

Saraki further promised that the Saudi visa policy will be one of the issues the Senate will look into when it resumes plenary later in the month and that the Saudi authorities as well as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Abuja will be engaged to find a lasting solution to the problems of visa issuance to Nigerians by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

By Olisemeka Obeche

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