Hajj stampede: Buhari, FOMWAN mourn veteran journalist, Hajiya Bilkisu Yusuf, others

Bilkisu YusufPresident Muhammadu Buhari has expressed deep sadness over the colossal calamity which occurred in Saudi Arabia on Thursday, claiming the lives of more than 700 pilgrims, including some Nigerians.

A statement Friday signed by Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu said Buhari believes that the stampede at Mina in which a notable Nigerian Journalist, Hajiya Bilkisu Yusuf, Prof. Tijjani El-Miskin and others lost their lives is a monumental tragedy, not only for citizens of the countries involved, but for the global Islamic community.

“The President extends sincerest condolences to the families of the over 700 pilgrims who lost their lives in this latest disaster in the Holy Places which occurred less than two weeks after a crane collapse in Mecca claimed more than a hundred lives.

“President Buhari commiserates with the Nigerian Guild of Editors and the Nigerian Union of Journalists on the sad loss of Hajiya Bilkisu, an exemplary, dedicated, knowledgeable, very credible, highly-respected, outstanding editor and columnist who, even in death, will remain a glittering role model for journalists, within and outside Nigeria,” the statement said.

The President also took note of the assurance by the Government of Saudi Arabia that Thursday’s catastrophe will be investigated and urges King Salman to ensure a comprehensive and thorough exercise that will identify any flaws in Hajj organisation with a view to avoiding a recurrence of such tragedies during the annual pilgrimage.

“In the knowledge that it is not within our powers to question the will of God, President Buhari  prays that Almighty Allah will comfort the families who lost their beloved ones in the stampede and receive the souls of all those who died in the Holy Land while fulfilling the religious obligation of the Hajj,” Shehu’s statement concluded.

The Federation of Muslim Women Association of Nigeria (FOMWAN) also expressed shock over the death of Hajiya Bilkisu Yusuf, its former national leader.

Mairo Sani, the leader of FOMWAN in Plateau State, who made the statement, described the deceased as “God-fearing and compassionate woman”.

Sani told the News Agency of Nigeria on Friday in Jos, the Plateau State capital.

She said the deceased operated an open door policy when she led the organisation.

“Bilkisu will be remembered for her humility, as a mentor, mother to all, an advocate of peace and someone whose door was open to anyone that requires her counsel,” she said.

Sani added that the late Bilkisu would be remembered for her doggedness in championing the resettlement of the Internally Displaced Persons affected by insurgent attacks in the North East.

She recalled that the last function attended by the deceased was the national conference of FOMWAN held in August in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital where she delivered a paper on the need for women to be advocate for peace.

Sani also recalled that the deceased was among the team that facilitated the construction of the association’s national headquarters in Abuja.

She said: “It is a great loss to us, but God knows all.

“We mourn her but we know Allah has a special plan for her.”

Yusuf was the first female editor from Northern Nigeria.

She worked as editor of the New Nigerian Newspapers and the Citizens magazine in Kaduna

She also worked with the Triumph Newspaper in Kano and as a columnist.

Bilkisu was also a columnist for Daily Trust and LEADERSHIP newspapers.

Aside FOMWAN, she was also founding member of Women in Nigeria (WIN) Advocacy Nigeria, where she was the executive director.

She was a consultant and trainer in media, gender and conflict management and peace building. She was on the board of FOMWAN, the Nigerian Interfaith Action Association Against Malaria (NIFAAM), Health Reform Foundation of Nigeria (HERFON), ABANTU for Development, Vision Trust Foundation, and many others.

Another prominent Nigerian fatality in the Saudi stampede that took place during the ritual stoning of the devil is Prof. Tijjani Almiskin, a professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Maiduguri, Borno State, and one-time head of the University of Maiduguri Arabic Village in Gamboru where students of Arabic go for special training.