Muhammad Ajah Abuja;
The Nigerian pilgrims who were arrested for alleged drug tracking have been released even as the Saudi Arabian government has intensified security checks on pilgrims as its security outfits are seen in every nook and cranny of the Madinah metropolis, conducting checks on vehicles, mobile devices as well as suspected individuals.
The officer in charge of consular matters in Madinah, Abdurrahman Hassan Fullatah made the assertion in response to the alleged drug trafficking story noted that the event was over exaggerated by the media. He said two of the arrested persons have been released while the third was still under investigations. He added that the laws of the land do not grant access to the culprit, even as the security cannot release details or information until investigations have been concluded.
He frowned at situations where anything negative in connection to Nigeria is overblown by the press, though the same checks and arrests are made in cases regarding other nationalities. He, however, urged Nigerian pilgrims coming into the Kingdom to respect the laws of Saudi and not to come with contra-bounds in order to have smooth stay in the country.
The Madinah coordinator, Dr. Bello Muhammad Tambuwal said reports on the arrest have been complied, while efforts were still ongoing to follow up the case of the third person.
At the Jeddah and Madinah International Airports, security officers dressed in common Saudi attires have mounted vigilance on the incoming passengers. They pick out some of the passengers at random or by intelligence estimation for special screening and possible interrogation.
A Nigerian pilgrim who spoke to the reporter under the condition of anonymity said that five co-pilgrims including himself were cornered by three plain-clothed Saudi men at the airport when they had finished their processes with the Saudi immigration. He said they Saudi men took their international passports one by one and asked them to follow them into a room by a corner.
“Inside there, they ask me: are you a soldier? I told them that I was not. One of them asked me: Can you shoot gun? I said I cannot. They asked one of us: Do you know the sound kpakpakpakpa? The pilgrim told them he does not know. Apparently, he was scared. Then, they thoroughly searched us one by one physically and with a machine. After that, they gave us our passports and asked us to go. I was not happy with the experience because picking us out from a large crowd of pilgrims made me feel very shy and uncomfortable. But Alhamdulilah they did not find anything on us”, the pilgrim said in a Nigerian local dialect.
He said that one of the pilgrims got angry and challenged the Saudi men to tell him the reason why they were taken into the special room for checking, but the others pilgrims prevailed on him and so there was no fracas in the process. He noted that the security men were ready to deal with the pilgrim who had raised voice on them if not for their pleading.
Asked on why they interrogated some passengers at the airport, a security man at the Madinah Airport who did not want his name mentioned said it was a routine exercise especially with the current global war on terrorism. When asked further why such checks at a place where only Muslims are allowed to enter, he said the security of pilgrims should not be treated with levity because no one knows who is who especially that non-Muslim who adopt Islamic names engage in criminality to discredit Islam.
“We are not taking the security of our guests lightly. It is our duty to secure the guests of Allah throughout their stay in the Kingdom. So, we do every possible to make sure that they are secure. We do random checks on the incoming pilgrims and based on our intelligence findings we rescreen them and release them. We do the same to every passenger from all the countries of the world. As for your country, about three were interrogated and arrested for drugs trafficking”, he said.
It is, therefore, hoped that pilgrims who are yet coming from Nigeria be enlightened that they should not feel worried with any encounter by the Saudi security at the entry points because it is a mere routine duty aimed at ensuring the general security of the pilgrims in the holy land.