The recent outbreak of Lassa Fever in some parts of the country may lead the Saudi Arabian government to ban Nigerian pilgrims from this year’s Hajj pilgrimage.
It was gathered that the Federal Government had summoned Commissioners for health to a session with top officials of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) to be chaired by Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Boss Mustapha, over the issue.
The Saudi Arabian government had earlier allotted about 95,000 pilgrims’ slots to Nigeria for 2018 made up of 80,000 regular pilgrims and 15,000 by tour operators.
A source, who spoke with The Nation said, “I think Saudi Arabia has been a bit worried about the outbreak of Lassa Fever in some states in the country. Its concern was suspected that it might lead to a ban of Nigerian pilgrims from this year’s Hajj. Although no official diplomatic communication has been relayed to the Federal Government but Saudi Arabia has informally said it was bothered about the Lassa fever epidemic.
"To allay the fears of Saudi Arabia, the Federal Government has invited all the commissioners for health and NAHCON officials for a meeting in Abuja today. The session will take stock of the extent of the spread of the Lassa Fever and what has been done to curb it. The collation of the facts and figures at the meeting will enable Nigeria to relate with Saudi Arabia with verifiable evidence.
Another government official also said: “We have not received a formal complaint from Saudi Arabia but the government is taking preemptive measures to make sure that the pilgrimage is not hampered. We are doing this to support NAHCON, which is noted for placing premium to health safety. If you look at NAHCON service so far, it has performed creditably with emphasis on the health of pilgrims through adequate immunization. The present leadership of NAHCON is the best the nation has ever had with its scientific operation and premium on healthcare for pilgrims.”