Saudi Arabian authorities will pay N65 million to dead victims’ families and N32.5 millionfor those who sustained injuries from the crane collapse at Grand Mosque that occurred last Friday. The incident claimed 111 lives, including six Nigerians.

Saudi local newspaper, Arab News, reported that “King Salman has ordered the payment of the following to the families of the victims: SR1,000,000 to the family of each person killed in the accident; SR1,000,000 to each injured whose injury resulted in permanent disability; SR500,000 to each of the other injured”.

Saudi Arabia’s policies for Hajj visas became quite constricting in the last year. Back in July 2015, Spokesman of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), Alhaji Uba Mana, complained about recent changes made to the visa issuance process.

Before 2015, states were required to forward the passport of intending pilgrims to the Saudi Arabia Consulate through NAHCON for visa issuance. But this year’s exercise required biometric identifction, transportation, accommodation, charges, feeding and allowances of each intending pilgrim before visas were issued.

The decision by the Saudi Arabian authorities to pay the victims’ families comes with a condition attached. According to media reports, such payment does not deprive the families of the deceased and the injured from instituting lawsuits before the relevant judicial authorities. Also, the families of the victims will be entitled to two Hajj slots each next year to be fully paid for by the Saudi government.

With the history of deaths trailing pilgrimages to Mecca, will people take the free slots? Hajj brings about a deep spiritual transformation for its participants, says the religious website WhyIslam, which provides some insight as to why Muslim faithfuls make use of opportunities to go on pilgrimages.

Although the Saudi Arabian government has been commended for their decision to paycompensation to the families of victims in the crane accident, the negligence of the Saudi Binladin Group could be a part of the reason why the former is giving out such a healthy compensation.

Role of the Nigerian federal government

Following the incident, President Buhari offered his condolences to the families of the victims, who hailed from Kaduna, Katsina and Gombe States. In the past, Nigeria has recorded deaths from Hajj pilgrimages, due to ill-health, psychiatric cases and terminal diseases. The Nigerian government has not at present indicated whether they will compensate Nigerian victims of the Mecca crane collapse.

Source: Omono Eremionkhale, Ventures Africa

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