Accountant General, Lawmaker Among Hajj Stampede’s Victims

…President Buhari Orders Census of Nigerian Pilgrims

imagePresident Muhammadu Buhari yesterday ordered the National Hajj Commission (NAHCON) and the Nigerian Embassy in Saudi Arabia to urgently account for all Nigerian pilgrims in the aftermath of last Thursday’s disaster at Mina.

The presidential directive followed conflicting reports on the number of Nigerians who died or got injured in the catastrophe, which claimed 769 lives as at the last count.

The Hajj Commission on Sunday night said 54 Nigerians had been confirmed dead. But many others are still missing.

It emerged yesterday that more high profile persons died in the stampede, with the announcement that Niger State lost its Accountant General, Alhaji Shehu Kontagora. A member of the Katsina State House of Assembly, Mr. Faisal Musa, also died.

A statement by the Senior Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, said the president was very concerned that days after the unfortunate incident, some Nigerian families are still grappling with painful uncertainty over the fate of their relatives who travelled to Saudi Arabia for this year’s Hajj.

He expected 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.

The President also directed the Hajj Commission, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Nigerian Embassy in Saudi Arabia to assist Nigerians who are still receiving treatment for injuries suffered in Mina.

Katsina State Governor Bello Masari yesterday condoled with the family of Faisal Musa,the state lawmaker who died in the Makkah stampede. The deceased represented Jibia Constituency.

Masari, who visited the deceased’s family in Jibia in company of the Deputy Governor,, Alhaji Mannir Yakubu, prayed Allah to forgive his sins and grant him eternal rest.

He also prayed for the family to have the fortitude to bear the loss.

The governor said that the government had directed the Pilgrims Welfare Board to get the exact number of Katsina citizens who were affected by the incident.

Apart from the accountant general, the Niger State Deputy Amirul Hajj (leader of delegation), Mr. Abubakar Isa, also died in the tradedy.

The news was received from Mecca on Sunday evening.

When The Nation visited the Niger State Pilgrims Welfare Commission in Minna, an official said they were yet to ascertain the number of people missing. He said the figure was not less than 10.

Niger State Acting Governor Mohammed Ketso has also visited the families of the deceased to commiserate with them.

The fidau prayer (prayers offered for the repose of the departed by Muslims) was held for Isa in Bida town yesterday, with members of his family, friends and relations in attendance.

Also yesterday, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) called for a thorough investigation into the two major incidents that led to fatalities during the 2015 Hajj in Saudi Arabia.

NLC President Ayuba Wabba, commiserating with the families of the 767 Muslim faithful who died in a stampede on the way to Jamrat Complex (stoning site) in Mina, said:

“In order 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 the Hajj generally.

“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.

“As painful as this incident is, we believe it is predestined. Accordingly, the victims should be seen as martyrs who gave up their lives in worship,” Wabba said in the statement.

He advised that the 805 injured among whom were 61 Nigerians, be given urgent and best medical attention.

He acknowledged that managing a mammoth crowd, sometimes in excess of two million people during every annual pilgrimage was no mean task, for which the Saudi authorities deserve commendation.

The NLC President, however, noted with over 1,200 deaths, including those who died in the crane collapse, the 2015 Hajj ranked among the most eventful in recorded history of Hajj.

“We are shocked and completely at a loss by the extent of the losses this year.

“That is why we are calling for a thorough investigation of the two major incidents that led to these deaths, ” Wabba added.

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