By Deji Elumoye and Udora Orizu
President of the Senate, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, has appealed to the government of Saudi Arabia to assist in bringing back over 10,000 Nigerians detained in Saudi Arabia.
Lawan made the appeal yesterday when the Saudi Arabian Ambassador to Nigeria, Faisal Eebraheem Alghamdi, paid a visit at the National Assembly, Abuja.
The Senate President, while underscoring the role of the Ninth Assembly in ensuring compliance to bilateral and multi-lateral agreements entered into by the Nigerian government, disclosed that ongoing efforts were underway to evacuate citizens held back in Saudi Arabia.
He said, ‘’This legislative arm of government is always conscious of ensuring that our government plays its role in bilateral and multilateral dispositions that our government has decided to go into. Saudi Arabia and Nigeria established a very solid relationship for a long time, and the relationship has been growing every year. I want to assure you that this arm of government will work with you as the Ambassador of Saudi Arabia.
‘’We are aware that some of our pilgrims in the past had issues in Saudi Arabia, thousands of them are in detention and, therefore, as a country we have taken conscious decisions to ensure that we continue to educate and enlighten our citizens, especially those going to Saudi Arabia for Ummrah of Hajj, that when they get there, they perform their religious rites and return to Nigeria. This is to minimize and possibly avoid people going there and not coming back. I want to assure you that we will continue to support the National Hajj Commission in educating our pilgrims and, of course, the State Welfare Boards across the country.’’
Lawan also appealed to Saudi Arabia to use its influence as a major player in the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to increase Nigeria’s crude oil production quota.
According to him, doing so would enable Nigeria meet with the country’s infrastructural demands needed to match its growing population.
He said: ‘’As OPEC members, we need the support of Saudi Arabia in so many respects. Even though it is not Saudi Arabia alone that can determine the quota cut for any OPEC country, but Saudi Arabia is the major country in OPEC.
Because of your position, you have a lot of influence more than any country.
“Presently, our quota, I think, is about 1.5 million barrels per day. We would request that whenever the opportunity avails itself, we would like to see a higher quota for Nigeria. We have a very huge population – over 200 million – and we have massive challenges in developing our infrastructure. At the moment we still earn more than ninety percent of our foreign exchange from the export of crude oil, so we would like to see a situation where we are able to export more of our crude,” he said.
Speaking earlier, Alghamdi, said the purpose of the visit was to build on this existing relationship between Nigeria and Saudi Arabia, adding that there’s need to develop both countries relationships.