Tour Operators Decry Racketeering Of Umrah Visas

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Nigeria’s Independent Tour Operators have decried the racketeering in Umrah visa processing, making it difficult for Nigerians willing to embark on the Umrah trip to get visas to carry on with the journey to Saudi Arabia.

With Umrah visa, which hitherto cost N250,000, currently sold as high as N2million, the Tour Operators said they were deeply worried over the challenges being faced by Nigerian Muslims in obtaining visas to travel to Saudi Arabia for the lesser Hajj in this month of Ramadan, saying it was unhealthy for Nigeria’s Hajj and Umrah industry.

The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) last week confirmed a shortage of Umrah visas for Nigerian Muslims.

A statement signed by the commission’s Assistant Director of Public Affairs, Fatima Sanda Usara, said the Commission will continue to work tirelessly in collaboration with relevant stakeholders to find a satisfactory resolution of the scarce visas.

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.

Reacting through a chat with LEADERSHIP, Alhaji Mohammed Ibrahim, CEO of Mohdibra Travels, attributed the challenge to ineptitude of NAHCON, stating that the Commission was not taking up its responsibilities squarely, thereby allowing selfish agents in Saudi Arabia to racketeer the Umrah Visas to the detriment of approved and Licensed Tour Operators in Nigeria.

Ibrahim called for the intervention of the Federal Government to protect the Nigerian Licensed Tour Operators from the Saudi-Arabian authorities.

“We tour operators pay charges to Nigerian government and Saudi Arabia, so why are non-registered Tour Operators accessing the Visa Portal and we are here left with passengers and accruing losses that is running into billions.

“In the Umrah sector, the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) gave Us – Tour Operators – licences to operate Umrah service and we use this Licences to go to the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah to apply for Visas for Nigerians to go for Umrah. We paid two thousand 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 the same contract number. Now, who is using the contract number to issue Visas to people in Nigeria because they didn’t give us the password of the portal.

“Secondly, the Visa costs between eight to nine hundred 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 one thousand five hundred (1,500) to two thousand (2,000) Saudi Riyals which is equivalent to N620,000 at exchange rate. So, the Agent that is printing Visas in Saudi Arabia and selling to Nigerians, where did he get his permission from to send Visas to people in Nigeria?

“People are sending money to Saudi Arabia to buy Visas for Umrah and we registered Licensed Agents in Nigeria can’t access the Portal, while the Agents in Saudi Arabia are using our licences to operate the portal.”

Another Tour Operator who preferred anonymity also informed our correspondent of the issues they are currently facing with the infiltration of non-licensed Tour operators in the business.

“We want to know who is responsible for the Visas coming from Saudi Arabia because NAHCON is neither doing its work nor taking its responsibility of knowing how many companies are issuing Visas for Umrah now. Some of our passengers have bought tickets and they dont have Visas and Visas are still coming out of Saudi Arabia not Nigeria because most Visas in Nigeria are not working.

“Visas are being issued directly from Saudi Arabia at the rate of two to three thousand, five hundred Saudi Riyals per Visa. So, Who is behind these Visas from Saudi and who gave the approval?” he asked.

“Why should NAHCON not know how many licensed companies the Ministry approved to do visas for Nigerians and how many are doing it or not.

“They said we ‘Tour Operators’ are sending people to Saudi Arabia without returning back, no, it’s not us. It is the Agents in Saudi Arabia that are giving visas to people in Nigeria that they don’t know that are responsible for that,” Ibrahim said.

According to him, the Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Nigeria is now like a photograph, saying nothing is happening there.

“What we are saying is that at the time the Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Nigeria was issuing the visas, most of us benefited from it but now you can not even go to the Embassy to ask about anything. The Embassy is now just like a photograph because everything is done from Saudi Arabia.

“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”.



Source link: Leadership

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