Nigerian pilgrims, especially the non-educated ones, are being swindled daily by traders in Madinah, Saudi Arabia.
The unsuspecting pilgrims easily fell into the dubious actions of the traders.
Most of the traders involved in the dubious acts, The Nation learnt, are not Saudi citizens.
The pilgrims’ inability to know the exchange rate between Saudi Riyal and Nigerian Naira, made it easy for the traders to dupe them.
A Riyal is equivalent to N100.
Unfortunately, the pilgrims do not go with guides or their states’ officials when making the purchases.
Some female pilgrims from Osun, Lagos and Kwara states, The Nation gathered, were most affected.
Our reporter had to convince some women pilgrims from Osun State on Saturday not to buy caps a shop attendant said cost 30 Riyal (N3,000) each, instead of two Riyal (N200).
On sunday, SIM cards that were given free to pilgrims were sold for 15 Riyal (N1500) to some pilgrims from Kwara State.
Some goods that cost less than N500 were sold to the pilgrims for between N2800 and N4500.
Unfortunately, those who bought those goods thought they bought them cheap, not knowing the exchange rate.
A Lagos pilgrim, who simply gave his name as Tayo, said he bought a big walking stick for N250, as against N70 in Nigeria.
“The attendant initially called it 10 Riyal (N1,000). I left his shop in annoyance. At another shop, the attendant insisted on 5 Riyal (N500). I later bought it for N250 each in the third shop I checked. Our people were just buying things at a high rate ignorantly,” he said.
The Nation saw an unlicensed money exchanger approaching Nigerian hotels to exchange Naira for Riyal.
A Riyal, he said, is exchanged for N111, instead of the official N100 rate.
The Executive Secretary, Lagos State Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Board, Mr. Rahman Ishola, told The Nation that the board had held several enlightenment programmes to sensitise the pilgrims on the issue.
He said it was regrettable that many of them did not listen to the warnings of the board.
Ishola said some of the goods they bought with huge amount were substandard to what they would get at cheaper prices in Nigeria.
“It is painful seeing the pilgrims being swindled of their hard-earned money by the traders here. Unfortunately, we didn’t know when they were buying the items. We could have prevented them from being ripped off,” he said.
Ishola added: “Pilgrims rushed to buy things due to anxiety. We can’t compel them on what to do, but we’ll continue to educate them. Some of the things they bought are inferior and they paid heavy amount for them. We have told them not to buy many things here in Madinah. Many of these goods are also available in Makkah and will be cheaper after the Arafat Day.”
He advised the Saudi Arabian government to monitor the activities of the traders and ensure quality goods are brought into the country.
Meanwhile, 850 Lagos pilgrims have taken part in the performance of Umrah (lesser hajj) in the city of Makkah.
The pilgrims, who were on board first and second flights, arrived Makkah a few days ago to participate in the first major rite of hajj, that is Umrah.
Pilgrims on third and fourth flights are on their way to Makkah to join their counterparts to fulfil one of the obligations of hajj.
The Amir Hajj, Dr. Abdul Hakeem Abdul Lateef, yesterday arrived Madinah with the remaining pilgrims.
With this, Lagos has completed the transporting of 2264 pilgrims for this year’s holy pilgrimage.