The Federal Government yesterday gave 24 hours ultimatum to Saudi authorities to rescind its decision on the detained 400 Nigerian female pilgrims.
The ultimatum came on the heel of the deportation of another 171 pilgrims of Taraba and Katsina States origin, who were denied entry into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Some 400 Nigerian female pilgrims were detained on Sunday at King Abdul-Aziz International Airport, Jeddah for travelling unaccompanied by their husbands or approved male partners.
As at Wednesday night, Saudi authorities were still threatening to deport the pilgrims, who were from Jigawa and Sokoto States.
But yesterday, the Senate urged President Goodluck Jonathan to dialogue with the Arabian king to resolve the plight of the women, who were disallowed from gaining entry into the country to perform this year Hajj.
A total of 171 deportees arrived at the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano, at about 6pm yesterday on board a Max Air airline, as more pilgrims were being expected to arrive with Kabo Air.
While the 53 pilgrims from Taraba State disembarked at Kano, their Katsina State counterparts, who departed Nigeria last night, were flown to Katsina State.
Some of the rejected pilgrims, who shared their sad experiences with reporters on arrival at the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, said they suffered untold hardship during their brief stay in Saudi Arabia.
According to Hajia Aisha Ibrahim Mohammed from Taraba State, they spent three days in Medina, Saudi Arabia, adding that they were hungry as they were starved for the whole of the three days that they were under custody.
With tears, Hajia Medinatu Jalingo equally expressed disgust at the shabby treatment meted to them by Saudi officials, adding that at some point “we were shouting and we were about to protest, but they sent their officers after us.”
At its plenary sitting yesterday, the Upper Legislative Chamber adopted a motion sponsored by Senator Abubakar Atiku Bagudu and 16 other senators, including Senate Leader Victor Ndoma-Egba, Ayogu Eze, Abu Ibrahim, Smart Adeyemi and Helen Esuene.
Besides, the Senate also urged its Deputy Leader, Abdul Ningi, to urgently bring up the matter with SHOORA and ASECA, to which Nigeria belongs, for quick resolution.
Senate President David Mark said efforts must be made to ensure that the pilgrims were released and allowed to perform hajj.
Mark said: “Saudi is a member of SHOORA. SHOORA is the Arab and African parliaments that are working together and Senator Ningi is the one who represents us there.
“He should just talk to the member of Saudi there. Apart from the efforts made so far by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I think we should ask the President to talk directly to Saudi authorities. We should do everything possible to ensure that our pilgrims, having gone far, are allowed to perform the hajj.”
The Chairman, Foreign Affairs Committee, Senator Ifeanyi Nwagwu, said it was evident that the pilgrims were held in unpleasant conditions, while Senator Dahiru Awaisu Kuta suggested that the Federal Government be asked to raise a team to address the plight of the detained pilgrims.