President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday ordered the National Hajj Commission and the Nigerian Embassy in Saudi Arabia to take a head count of all Nigerians who had embarked on this year’s hajj pilgrimage.
The order was contained in a statement issued by the Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu.
According to the statement, the headcount was necessitated following last Thursday’s stampede at Mina which claimed over 700 lives, and the conflicting reports on the number of Nigerians who died or suffered injuries in the disaster.
Shehu said the President was concerned that days after the incident, some Nigerian families were still uncertain over the fate of their relatives who travelled to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj.
The statement read in part, “The President expects the National Hajj Commission to work with the various state pilgrim boards, Islamic organisations and private travel agencies involved in Hajj operations to speedily provide a confirmed and verifiable report on the status of every Nigerian pilgrim in Saudi Arabia.
“President Buhari has also directed the Hajj Commission, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Nigerian Embassy in Saudi the Arabia to give all necessary assistance to Nigerians who are still receiving treatment for injuries suffered in Mina.
“He continues to pray that Almighty Allah will receive the souls of the dead, comfort the bereaved families, heal the injured and bring all surviving Nigerian pilgrims safely home.”
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Labour Congress on Monday commiserated with the families of the Muslim faithful who died in the stampede.
A statement issued by NLC President, Ayuba Wabba read, “Our special condolences go to the families and loved ones of 54 Nigerians who were among the dead. We pray for the repose and admission of their souls to heaven.
“Managing a mammoth crowd, sometimes in excess of two million people during every annual pilgrimage, is no mean task and the Saudi authorities deserve some commendations certainly.”
He added, “However, with over 1,200 deaths (earlier deaths caused by a crane mishap), the 2015 hajj ranks amongst the most eventful in recorded history of hajj.
“We are shocked and completely at a loss at the extent of the losses this year. “Accordingly, we call for a thorough investigation of the two major incidents that led to these deaths.
“For transparency and re-assurance, we urge that countries whose citizens perished in the two incidents be made members of the body of inquiry.
“But most importantly, perhaps, time has come for the Saudi authorities to review their crowd control management techniques and administration of hajj, generally.”