Fresh facts have shown that the 64 Nigerians confirmed dead in the Mina stampede in Saudi Arabia, plus the 71 injured and the 244 missing pilgrims were not insured.
Saturday PUNCH’s investigation revealed that majority of the 76,000 Nigerians, who participated in this year’s Hajj in Mecca, did not have travel health insurance before jetting out to Saudi Arabia for the pilgrimage.
This, it was learnt, was due to the disposition of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria that there is no insurance in Islam and life comes from God and it goes to God whenever He takes it.
Among the deceased were notable Nigerians, including the brother of a former Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Attahiru Jega, Justice Abdulkadir Jega; another Justice of the Ilorin Division of the Court of Appeal, Justice Musa Hassan Alkali; the Emir of Zing and Ameerul-Hajj of Taraba State to 2015’s Hajj exercise, Abbas Ibrahim, with two of his wives.
Others were a veteran female journalist from the North, Bilkisu Yusuf, and an Arabic and Islamic Studies scholar, Prof. Tijjani El-Miskin. Alhaji Abbas Ibrahim Sambo, Bello Gidan Hamma and Alhaji Shehu Kontagora also died in the incident.
According to NAHCON, 42 of the dead Nigerians were from states pilgrims’ welfare boards, including two NAHCON officials, while others were among those on the pilgrimage by private tour operators.
The commission also listed 15 states – Bauchi, Borno, Zamfara, Cross River, Jigawa, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Nasarawa, Niger, Ogun, Ondo, Sokoto, Taraba and Yobe – as those that lost pilgrims to the stampede.
The spokesperson for the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria, Mr. Uba Mana, in an interview with Saturday PUNCH, confirmed that the country’s 76,000 pilgrims to 2015 Hajj were not insured because “in Islam, insuring a life is not recognised.”
This, he said, was the reason NAHCON could not make it mandatory for pilgrims to buy travel insurance before going for Hajj; adding that the same principles are in force in the state pilgrims’ boards.
On whether he thinks the Federal Government should pay compensation to the families of the victims, Mana said, “Is it the responsibility of the Federal Government to pay compensation? The Federal Government did not cause the accident which happened in a foreign land. The best the Federal Government can do is to seek compensation from the foreign government.
“It is not the Nigerian government that caused the accident. Of course (there may be), if a pilgrim is travelling and the aircraft is insured, but you don’t insure it because he is going to Mecca, but because insuring a passenger’s life is part of the regulations of the International Civil Aviation Organisation. Every aircraft is responsible for the soul it carries. As a Muslim, if you want to go for Hajj, it is not done in Islam that a pilgrim’s life should be insured.”
He recalled that the Saudi Arabian government had decided to constitute a committee that would probe the accident.
He, however, said the position of NAHCON and the Federal Government is that while they support the probe, individual countries that lost their pilgrims should be co-opted into the committee, even at international level, with a view to preventing a recurrence.
The Secretary-General, Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs and ex-Vice Chancellor, University of Ilorin, Prof. Ishaq Oloyede, said insurance as it is being practised in the country is not acceptable in Islam because it is exploitative.
To this end, he submitted that travel insurance wouldn’t have prevented the death of Nigerian pilgrims who died in the Hajj stampede.
He said, “Will travel insurance prevent their death? Travel insurance is something to assure them that in case they die, their offspring or those who are left behind will have some benefits. From Islamic point of view, there are systems of cooperative insurance that is allowed in Islam called Takaful. There are some insurance companies in Nigeria that are operating windows of Takaful, that is allowed.
“Insurance as we practice it in conventional form is even not acceptable in Islam because it is exploitative. They collect money from you, there is no accident, then you lose your money and you pay another premium next year. But Islam has a method that can be used but that is not relevant to this issue because we are not talking about the dependents suffering or not suffering.
“If somebody has insurance and he dies, the insurance will be activated and the beneficiaries will enjoy the outcome, but to ask that insurance should be imposed on our pilgrims, we will be asking too much and of course, we will be creating some other matters, including theological issues.”
When contacted, the chairman, Ogun State Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Board, Dr. Isiaq Yusuf, said there would be no compensation for the two victims from the state. The two victims were Mukaila Ogundiran and Saburi Rufai.
“There is no compensation for the Hajj victims from the state,” he said.
Similarly, the Ondo State Government declared that the pilgrims from the state who died during the stampede in Mecca would not be compensated.
It was gathered that no fewer than three pilgrims from the state lost their lives at the Mecca stampede during the 2015 Hajj pilgrimage
The state Commissioner for Information, Mr. Kayode Akinmade, in a telephone interview with Saturday PUNCH, said the deceased pilgrims should be compensated by the Saudi Arabian authorities and not the state government.
He said “How can the government pay compensation to the persons who sponsored themselves to Hajj? The Ondo State Government has no such plan. It is the Saudi Arabian government that is supposed to do that because the incident was said to have been caused by the poor management of the crowd by the authorities concerned.
“The pilgrims who died in the stampede did not represent the government; they went on their own, so how can we pay compensation to them?”
While Nigerian pilgrims to the 2015 Hajj were not insured, findings show that Iranian pilgrims as well as administrative and support workers dispatched to Saudi Arabia had insurance coverage.
The contract between the Iranian Insurance Company and the Organisation of Hajj includes term insurance, (death and permanent partial or total physical deficiency due to accident), supplementary health insurance and equity of the insured.
Therefore, should any of the insured be hospitalised in Saudi Arabia or Iran due to any illness or accident or pass away consequently; the company would pay all the costs and indemnities regardless of the duration of the coverage.
Some insurance companies in Egypt offer products for pilgrims in case of an accident, which cover up to EGP20, 000 (US$2,552) for death. Insurance companies offer additional coverage for emergencies and repatriation of mortal remains to the homeland and funeral expenses.
Also, pilgrims from Bangladash who undertook the Hajj or umrah take up different insurance schemes designed to cover accident risk.
In addition, Hajj pilgrims from India are insured by the Hajj committee of India under the comprehensive insurance policy that will cover losses due to theft, hospitalisation, illness, and injury or death due to terrorism, among others.
The comprehensive policy covers five types of emergencies for which the insurance company is liable to pay monetary compensation. Every pilgrim is allotted 2,100 Saudi riyals at 21 embarkation points across India. If the pilgrim loses 2,100 riyals during the first two days, he is liable to get the total reimbursement. The reimbursement diminishes as the days pass by during the stay.
The policy also covers loss of baggage, but not during transit. A person is eligible to get around 5,100 riyals for any loss of baggage for a maximum of 100 persons.
Seven hundred and sixty-nine persons were killed, while 934 others were injured in the stampede but other sources, including the government of Iran, had said that they believed the death toll was more than 1,100.
The incident had occurred at the intersection of streets 204 and 223 leading up to Jamaraat Bridge and has been described as the deadliest accident to occur in the Hajj since the 1990 disaster that killed 1,426 people.