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Tour operators seek FG’s intervention in alleged umrah visa racketeering

Some licensed tour operators in Nigeria have called on the Federal Government to intervene in the alleged racketeering of Umrah (lesser hajj) visas in the country.

In an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Monday in Abuja, the operators said the situation had made it difficult for some Nigerians willing to perform the religious obligation to get visas for the spiritual journey.

The Chief Executive Officer of Mohdibra Travels, Alhaji Mohammed Ibrahim, alleged that some selfish agents in Saudi Arabia had hijacked the umrah visa to the detriment of approved licensed tour operators in Nigeria.

He urged the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) to be more proactive in discharging its responsibilities.

”We tour operators pay charges to the Nigerian government and Saudi Arabia, but we are not accessing the Umrah Visa Portal, and we are here left with passengers and accruing losses that are running into billions.

“In the Umrah sector, the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) gave us tour operators licenses to operate Umrah services, and we used this license to go to the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah to apply for visas for Nigerians to go to Umrah.

”We paid 2,000 Saudi Riyals for the portal to be opened, but the agents in Saudi Arabia are telling us that the quota has not been approved, not knowing that the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has sent us an email that it has approved it.

”The visa costs between 800 and 900 Saudi Riyals on the system; that is in the portal for hajj and umrah, but it is being sold by different agents in Saudi Arabia between 1500 and 2000 Saudi Riyals, which is equivalent to N620,000.

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Another tour operator, who pleaded for anonymity, decried the infiltration of non-licensed tour operators into the business.

”Some of our passengers have bought tickets, but they do not have visas, and visas are still coming out of Saudi Arabia, not Nigeria, because most visas in Nigeria are not working.

”There is injustice in the visas being issued to Nigerians, and we are calling on the Federal Government to intervene in order to save our business.”

NAN reports that NAHCON recently confirmed a shortage of Umrah visas for Nigerian Muslims.

A statement by the commission’s Assistant Director of Public Affairs, Fatima Sanda-Usara, said the commission would continue to work tirelessly in collaboration with relevant stakeholders to find a satisfactory resolution to the visa inaccessibility.

The statement explained that the high demand for Umrah visas during Ramadan further exacerbated the shortage.

It also disclosed that NAHCON had officially written a letter communicating its concerns directly to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, outlining the implications of unavailable visas for Nigerian tour operators. (NAN)

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