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Newspaper Editor, Professor among Nigerian pilgrims trampled to death in Saudi Arabia

By The Rainbow
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A veteran journalist and prominent civil society activist, Hajiya Bilkisu, and Deputy Secretary General of the Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), Professor Tijjani Abubakar El-Miskin, were last night confirmed to be among Nigerians who died yesterday during the deadly stampede that occurred at the Jamarat Bridge outside Mecca, in Saudi Arabia.

Another Nigerian, a pharmacist, Hafsat Shittu, was also confirmed dead last night.

Many pilgrims from Nigeria as well as Niger Republic, Chad and Senegal were feared to be among the at least 753 who died and at least 800 injured in the worst stampede at the annual hajj in 25 years.

The stampede occurred during the last major rite of the annual pilgrimage, the symbolic stoning of the devil. There was a crush when a huge number of pilgrims turned out for the symbolic stone throwing and the pilgrims were going in opposite directions, contrary to the procedure.

Hajiya Bilkisu was the most prominent female journalist from Northern Nigeria for several decades. She was editor of Sunday Triumph in the early 1980s and became editor of the New Nigerian in 1987. She then became editor of Citizen Magazine in 1990. Apart from journalism, Hajiya Bilkisu was also very well known for civil society activism and in particular for her role in the nurturing of Muslim Women's NGOs.

She was Deputy National Amirah of the Federated Organisation of Muslim Women's Associations of Nigeria [FOMWAN]. She wrote hundreds of seminar papers and attended civil society conferences all over the world. Most recently, she was deeply involved in helping persons internally displaced by the crises in the North East region.

She presented a paper on the issue at the Daily Trust awareness and fund-raising event for internally displaced persons in late August.

Hajiya Bilkisu also maintained the weekly column “Civil Society Watch” in Daily Trust. She has maintained the column for more than a decade and sent her most recent article, which appeared in yesterday's edition, from Mecca on Wednesday evening.

As for Prof. El-Miskin, his death was confirmed by the Borno State Amirul Hajj, the state's former deputy governor, Alhaji Adamu Dibal, who spoke to the state's radio station.

In addition to his NSCIA duties, El-Miskin was the Executive Chairman of the Borno State Pilgrims Welfare Agency, a position he was appointed to in 2013 when Governor Kashim Shettima reconstituted the agency's board. He was also a professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Maiduguri and a former Director General of the Nigeria Arabic Village at Gamboru, Borno State. One of the country's most versatile Muslim clerics, teachers and activists, Professor El-Miskin once taught at the Nigeria Defence Academy in Kaduna.

He was very prominent at academic and Islamic lecture circuits and has hundreds of seminar papers to his name. His father, the prominent Tijjaniyya cleric Sheikh Abubakar El-Miskin, died in Maiduguri last November at the age of 100. He was also a member of the committee of traditional rulers, retired military officers, academics, businessmen and former public officers set up by the Northern States Governors Forum two years ago to work for reconciliation, healing and security in the troubled North East region.

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