Nine Sierra Leonean pilgrims in the last batch who arrived at Jeddah Airport have been arrested by the Saudi Immigration authority, according to an interview conducted with the Information Attaché at the Sierra Leone Embassy in Saudi Arabia.
Abubakar Bah told Radio Democracy that the nine pilgrims were not able to perform Hajj due to immigration problems they encountered at the airport.
The last batch of 270 pilgrims, according to the Information Attaché, arrived in the Holy Land on Thursday night and proceeded directly to the holy sites to perform the Hajj, which officially ended on Friday with the exception of the nine with immigration issues.
As the whereabouts of the nine pilgrims remain unknown, Sierra Leone has faced an historically embarrassing and unprecedented scandal, which will serve as a devastating blow to President Maada Bio’s Government.
This is the first time in the history Sierra Leonean pilgrims arrived in Saudi and they were unable to perform the Hajj.
In the past, we heard about Haja and Alhaji Lungi, Conakry and Abuja. But this is the first time we heard about Haja and Alhaji Jedda. This time, the pilgrims entered a Saudi airport, but were not able to perform the Hajj which is few miles to the holy sites.
Also in the interview, Radio Democracy quoted the Vice President, Dr. Juldeh Jalloh to have said that the number of Sierra Leonean pilgrims who were able to make it up are 890, while the Information Attaché in Saudi says they are 950. The question on the lips of people: the Vice President and Information Attache who is saying the truth and which figure is correct.
What is clear here is, nearly 150 pilgrims were not able to make it to Mecca this year. Most of them spent a week in Lungi, only to be told on Thursday afternoon that they wouldn’t make it up after some of them had paid US 6,000, the first week after the Hajj announcement was made.