Prominent Nigerian party leader dies in Hajj heatwave

Prominent Nigerian party leader dies in Hajj heatwave
Alhaja Ramota Bankole, a key All Progressives Congress leader in Lagos, was one of more than 1,000 who died on the Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca.
3 min read
22 June, 2024
A woman talks on the phone as Nigerian Hajj pilgrims leave the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport shortly after their arrival from the Saudi holy city of Madina, on September 26, 2012 [Getty]

A renowned veteran politician and member of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) party in Nigeria, was among over 1,000 pilgrims who died in extreme heat during the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia. 

The death of Alhaja Ramota Bankole, the former Welfare Secretary of APC’s Lagos chapter, was confirmed dead by local officials on Thursday. 

The death toll from this year's Hajj has exceeded 1,000, an AFP tally said on Thursday, with over half of those who died being unregistered worshippers who joined the pilgrimage through irregular channels.  

Top Nigerian officials shared their condolences of the late Bankole, who was said to have celebrated her 60th birthday prior to leaving for the Gulf state. 

"Her death is most shocking and unfortunate. She was a committed and experienced party leader," Seye Oladejo, APC's Publicity Secretary told state-owned news outlet News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)

"The deceased was a proven mobiliser and inspiration for women participation in politics. May her precious soul in peace."

The local government of the Lagos town of Epe, where Bankole was based, also expressed their grief on the politician's passing. 

"It is with a heavy heart, and a deep sense of grief that I received the news of the death of Alhaja Ramota Bankole," Epe local government chairwoman Surah Animashaun said in a statement. 


"It is a sad day indeed as I received the news that she died in the holy land of Mecca while on holy pilgrimage."

About 10 countries have reported 1,081 deaths during the Hajj pilgrimage. 

Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam, which every Muslim with the financial and physical means is required to undertake at least once in their lifetime. 

Nigeria reported earlier this month that two of its nationals died while performing the pilgrimage, who were identified as Salman Alade and Ayishat Ologele. 

In Medina, authorities also confirmed the deaths of another two Nigerian pilgrims, Saliu Mohammed and Hawawu Mohammed. 

Other countries, including Malaysia, India, Jordan, Iran, Senegal, Tunisia, Sudan, and Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region, have confirmed fatalities. In most of the instances, the cause of death has not been specified by authorities. 

On Thursday, more fatalities were also officiated by Pakistan and Indonesia, as friends and relatives have continued to search for missing pilgrims. 

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Saudi Arabia has not disclosed the number of fatalities during Hajj but reported over 2,700 cases of "heat exhaustion" on Sunday alone. 

Last year, various countries reported more than 300 deaths, primarily among Indonesian pilgrims. 

The Hajj dates shift about 11 days earlier each year in the Gregorian calendar. Next year, it will occur in early June, potentially cooler weather conditions. 

Hajj is being increasingly affected by climate change, with the UN's intergovernmental panel on climate change warning parts of the Gulf could become uninhabitable by the end of the century.

More than 10,000 heat-related illnesses were recorded last year, 10 percent of them heat stroke, a Saudi official told AFP this week.

A Saudi study said regional temperatures were rising by 0.4 C each decade, and worsening heat may be outpacing mitigation measures.

Hajj has witnessed several disasters over the years, including a tragic stampede during the "stoning the devil" ritual in 2015, which resulted in up to 2,300 deaths.