The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria, NAHCON, has warned pilgrims that severe penalties await anyone caught performing or aiding others to perform Hajj illegally including a fine of SR10,000; six months imprisonment and immediate deportation and banning from Saudi Arabia for 10 years.

According NAHCON, the warning was sequel to the recent concerns and complaints regarding pilgrims being arrested or prevented from accessing the Masjidul Haram in Makkah for not being in possession of their NUSUK ID cards, which it said was being addressed.

It noted in a statement that some pilgrims might have misplaced their NUSUK cards and advised them to contact their respective state pilgrims’ officials or NAHCON’s operational office in Makkah for assistance.

The commission informed that it had at different fora with State Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Boards and Hajj Tour Operators in Nigeria before the commencement of Hajj airlift, stressed the importance of the NUSUK ID card as a crucial document required for identification and access to the Masha’ir during the Hajj exercise.

“The highest religious body of Saudi Arabia has issued a fatwa in this regard making it mandatory for every pilgrim to obtain a Hajj permit for the wellbeing of all,” it stated.

NAHCON, therefore, reminded all Nigerian pilgrims of the mandatory possession of NUSUK ID cards which must be collected on arrival in Makkah from the Mutawwif officials (if they have not already done so) at designated distribution points, adding that they could inquire about collection procedures from the State Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Boards or Tour Operators they registered with.

The commission also urged the pilgrims to always carry their NUSUK cards, saying it is imperative to do so “as they are the recognized means of identifying pilgrims and for having access to key areas during Hajj”, pointing out that those with smartphones could download the NUSUK app from play store or iTunes stores while using their passport and visa numbers to activate and access digital copies of their NUSUK cards.

Expressing concern about their security, NAHCON asked the pilgrims to be vigilant and aware of the presence of illegal pilgrims attempting to steal and use their NUSUK ID cards to gain access to the Masha’er, saying “Guard your cards carefully and report any suspicious activity to the nearest authorities.”

It also urged all State Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Boards and Tour Operators to emphasize the importance of NUSUK ID cards to registered pilgrims during their pre-departure briefings and periodic engagements with them

The commission added that they should assist pilgrims in collecting their NUSUK cards if needed and liaise with their respective field offices for this purpose.

“We urge all pilgrims to adhere strictly to these guidelines to avoid any inconvenience or disruption in their spiritual journey. We similarly warn against harbouring or aiding any illegal pilgrim,” it stated.

While reiterating its commitment to ensuring a smooth and safe Hajj experience for all Nigerian pilgrims, NAHCON thanked them for their cooperation and prayed for all to have Hajj Mabrur.