Damilola Oyedele in Abuja
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is yet to pay the promised monetary compensation to the victims of the Medina crane crash and Mina stampede, which both occurred in September 2015 during the Hajj pilgrimage.
This was revealed by the Chairman of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), Alhaji Abdullahi Mohammed, at the House of Representatives investigative hearing on the role of the commission in the operations of the 2015 Hajj, yesterday.
Six Nigerians died in the crane crash, its another six injured, while 254 Nigerians lost their lives in the stampede.
Saudi Arabia promised to pay one million riyal per deceased person, and 500,000 riyal for each injured victim.
Mohammed added that the commission was working to ensure that the families of the victims received the compensation.
“We are working on it and as soon as we receive them we will forward them to the families of the victims,’’ he said.
He also refuted reports that the dead Nigerians were given mass burial.
“This is far from being the truth, there was no mass burial as each victim of the stampede was buried in his own grave marked and identified….Also the stampede did not occur as a result of the movement of Nigeria’s tent or as a result of the movement of VIPs as erroneously conceived,’’ he added.
The Chairman called for more training of officials of Saudi Arabia, to increase their capacity to manage large crowds.
“Officials involved in management should be multilingual so that they will be able to communicate with people of different nationalities and ensure more efficient crowd management,’’ he added.
On preparations for the 2016 hajj for which airlifting of pilgrims starts on August 8, Mohammed disclosed that a robust orientation programme has been put in place to protect Nigerians from becoming casualties.
“Virtually all the state and local government officials have been engaging pilgrims on education on possible areas of dangers and ways to avert them. The commission is also working with the ministry of health to establish a blood back to be used in DNA profiling in case of any emergency,” he said.
“We also have to sensitise the state officials on the need for probing the pilgrims’ movement to avoid crowd areas and to observe the timing given to us by the relevant authorities. And we will introduce an electronic device that will help us in the management and tracking of the pilgrims’ location at all times,’’ Mohammed added.