ALL AFRICA REPORT- IT was a bad New Year day for some over 1,000 Nigerian pilgrims performing the 2010 pilgrimage to the holy land in Israel as the Israeli authority, Saturday, shut its border against those entering the country from Egypt over a bomb scare which turned to be a false alarm.
The Nigerians had left Jerusalem for Mount Sinai enroute Eilat, an Israeli border town through Taba, an Egyptian border town to St. Catherine, the sparsely populated community where the holy site of Mount Sinai and the Burning Bush were located.The Nigerians who are one of the many batches performing the exercise, include pilgrims from the Federal Capital Territory, Taraba, River, Yobe, Kwara, Delta and Oyo states as well as members of the Federal Government officials but had to leave for Mount Sinai, one of the holy site located in the neighbour country of Egypt.
The pilgrims had arrived the Egyptian-Israeli border post at Taba at1:10 pm for the border routine check, after a lunch at Nuweiba another Egyptian town located between St. Catherine and Taba, when the incident occurred.
Egyptian security operatives
The Nigerian Christians who were in eight different luxurious buses had been swiftly checked by the Egyptian security operatives from the Egypt's end of the border, in less than 30 minutes.
But, the unexpected happened, after about 45 Nigerian travellers had began the screening process with the Israeli authority on the country's side of the border, when the international passage was hurriedly shut down to prevent the pilgrims from gaining access.
Precisely, at exactly 1:53pm there was a very loud alarm, from the Israeli part of the border, and suddenly the country's security personnel were seen rushing to close both the vehicular and human passage; and within a minute, the entire border was cordoned-off with the Israelis deserting their duty-post and leaving for more secured rooms at the border.
And for more than 30 minutes the Nigerians including the young and old people who had queued in a very long line that stretched to the Egyptian end of the border, stood helplessly in the sun without explanation from the Israeli official, as the border remained closed.
The few Nigerians who had passed some check points after being screened by Israel were swiftly sent back to the Egypt's part of the border, perhaps for a more thorough check, but there was no official explanation, as the Israelis were heard through the loud speakers engaged in communication.
Reprieve, however, came the way of the stranded Nigerians who obviously became apprehensive when after over 30 minutes inexplicable silence, an Israeli female official alerted from the secured enclave and opened the gates.
But despite the resumption of operation by the Israelis, it took the exhausted Nigerians additional two hours to leave the border post which is sited by the bank of the Red Sea, which is surrounded by Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.
Investigation by Vanguard revealed that what led to the sudden closure of the border was a bomb scare alert which followed the notice of an unclaimed luggage by Nigerian pilgrims who had began the check, before the border was shut.
It was learnt that a Rev. Fr (names withheld) from River State had upon discovery that the bag he was holding was not actually his, had drop the luggage to search for his, at the Egyptian end of the border.
At all the holy sites, the pilgrims have been praying for the peace and unity of the country, while special prayers are being offered for the country's political leaders, particularly, President Goodluck Jonathan.
EDITED FROM http://allafrica.com/stories/201101040647.html