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Hajj 2024: FG speaks against drug Smuggling, says death penalty awaits victim

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The Chairman of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria, NAHCON, Malam Jalal Arabi, has warned pilgrims performing the 2024 Hajj to refrain from travelling with illicit drugs, kolanuts and cigarettes into the Saudi Arabia, saying death penalty awaits those who flout the directive.

Arabi also cautioned them to beware of being used as conduit pipe for any illicit trade without their knowledge.

He reminded the pilgrims that Saudi Arabia, as a nation deeply rooted in religious and cultural heritage, holds strict laws against drug trafficking, which death sentence is the penalty for anyone caught.

In a statement signed by the NAHCON’s Assistant Director of Public Affairs, Hajia Fatima Sanda Usara and released on Thursday, the chairman urged the pilgrims to remember the purposes for which they were embarking on the holy pilgrimage.

The statement reads in part: “NAHCON wishes to remind the pilgrims that the purpose of their trip to Saudi Arabia is for worship, therefore they should not be distracted by acts that would violate sanctity of their Hajj.

“Hajj period is a time for spiritual reflection and prayers that should be approached with reverence and respect for the laws and customs of the host country.

“On the other hand, Commission’s management warns intending pilgrims to beware of being used as conduit for any illicit trade without their knowledge.

“Therefore, they are advised be extra vigilant over their bags at the airports to avoid implantation of prohibited items to their luggage unawares.

“Pilgrims are urged to uphold their honour and dignity and that of the country, as any individual caught smuggling prohibited items not only brings shame upon themselves but also tarnishes the reputation of their nation.”

Similarly, NAHCON advised the State Pilgrims Welfare Boards, SPWBs, to collaborate fully with the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, and other related agencies in ensuring that persons planning to smuggle items prohibited in Saudi Arabia are apprehended to avoid embarrassment to Nigeria and unnecessary delays during screening in both countries.

The Commission had last Sunday identified discovery of kolanuts in some pilgrims’ luggages, and misplacement of passports by others, as major challenges being faced during this year’s Hajj operations.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia had in 2016 notified Nigerian authorities to ban the carrying of kolanut by pilgrims during the annual pilgrimage, which NAHCON confirmed in a statement issued ahead of that year’s Hajj, urging strict adherence to Saudi rules and regulations on prohibited items.

Head of the Commission’s National Reception Team, Laraban Abdullahi, who disclosed this while receiving pilgrims from Lagos and Osun states at the Mohammed bin AbdulAziz International Airport, Madina, lamented that the issues of kolanut and passports always cause delay for the pilgrims and officials at the airport

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