By John Ikani
More than 170 Nigerian travellers bound for Saudi Arabia found themselves abruptly turned away upon arrival on Monday, as Saudi authorities reportedly revoked their visas.
The 264 passengers, originating from Lagos and Kano, had undergone rigorous screenings and received visas before their flight.
Upon landing, the Saudi officials declined entry and directed Nigeria’s Air Peace airline to return them home. The Saudi authorities have not officially commented on the incident.
Reports suggest that the affected passengers expressed surprise upon learning of the visa cancellation, given that they had fulfilled all the prerequisites for entering the Middle Eastern country.
Despite the intervention of the Nigerian embassy, Saudi Arabia permitted entry to only 87 passengers, while the remaining 177 were repatriated to Nigeria on Monday night.
According to Nigerian media accounts, the majority of these travellers had embarked on their journey to Saudi Arabia for the purpose of undertaking the lesser Hajj (Umrah), a pilgrimage to the Islamic holy city of Mecca.