Thousands of Nigerian pilgrims in Madina, Saudi Arabia, desire to get a gold or silver tooth at the earliest opportunity regardless of the cost or rigours of having it fixed.
A pilgrim could have as many as three of such teeth fixed. The number is an indication of how many times he or she has visited Madina or performed Hajj.
This year, the trend shifted from gold and silver teeth to diamond ones. It has become the vogue and is also a show of class elevating from gold to diamond teeth.
Madina is said to be one of the best locations to get diamond teeth. The city is also renowned for its craftsmanship in the business.
Before leaving Nigeria, Bishir Mohammed from Katsina, had concluded plans to meet with a certain Alhaji Hassan Lawal in Madina who is a specialist in fixing diamond teeth.
Mohammed said, “He is a professional and I have reached out to him. He will be sending a car to my hotel to take me to him.”
Another pilgrim, Haruna, who is performing the exercise without his wife, is buying a diamond tooth to take back to her.
He said, “My wife desires these teeth so much that I have to buy one for her. She will have it fixed in Nigeria.
“Maybe when she comes next time, she will have a second one fixed here in Madina,” he added
For Hassan who also performed the Hajj, it would be a great mistake for one to come to Madina and fail to get a diamond tooth. “It would be missing an opportunity of a lifetime. I am not certain that I will come down here again. So this is the period to utilise to fix one.”
For those who are unable to afford the diamond craze, silver or gold suffice.
Mallam Mohammed Musa, a first-timer from Lere, Kaduna State was all smiles, ready to display his new acquisition – a silver teeth. He said it would be an “unfilled Hajj” for an average pilgrim from his hometown, to return home without a gold or silver tooth.
He said, “My friends back home fixed one when they came. It would be out of place for me not to have one too. I will be out of place. I need to be among and feel equal among my peers.”
Musa, like many other pilgrims, believe that a gold or silver tooth signifies a successful pilgrimage and symbolise performing a Hajj.
It is a common trend among pilgrims, mostly Nigerians and other West Africans, to get a gold or silver tooth. Most men go for silver while the women go for gold.
The cost of the teeth varies and depends on the present cost in the international market as they are weighed in grams.
The prices are between 50 – 500 riyals (N5, 000 – N50, 000) depending also on the quality and weight of the tooth as they are measured in carat. The heavier the weight the costlier it is. Most Nigerian’s generally purchase teeth priced a N30, 000.
The cost also includes the price of fixing the teeth. The tooth merchants do not separate the fixing cost from the tooth itself. It is a strategy to lure customers.
They promise prospective clients that fixing the tooth is free, if they patronise them. However, those who choose to purchase the tooth separately pay up to N5, 000 to fix them if they patronise a qualified dentist. In other to save cost, some however prefer to use other fixers.
Big business for ‘Tukari’
At every Nigerian residence, scouts or illegal immigrants popularly called ‘Tukari’ besiege such locations looking for pilgrims to take to teeth-fixing spots. The eagerness of many Nigerians wanting the teeth leads to their being defrauded.
Most of the Tukaris carry pictures on their phones and mobile devices, displaying the various types of teeth and their prices to show to the pilgrims.
To also get the pilgrims, these agents try to convince some officials or other pilgrims to convince their groups to purchase the teeth. In return they are rewarded for their efforts with moneys or commissions.
Hajiya Khadija Sani, an agent based in Madina said for every tooth inserted she gets 50 riyals especially on expensive ones. She equally promised a free tooth to any pilgrim who could get up to ten pilgrims to patronise her.
On how the teeth are inserted, Khadijat who also works for a dentist who fixes them said, when they get customers they are paid between N5000-7000 in commission on each person.
She said, since 2017, the Saudi authorities have tried to regularise the services by ensuring that only certified dentists are allowed to carry out the insertions. This is in a bid to regularise and standardise the operation with the high number of people indulging in them and health related concerns.
To enhance patronage, young girls are also co-opted into the business. They coax pilgrims with offers like free transportation, feeding and other gifts to make one get them fix the teeth.
Amina, 21, is a Nigerian now based in Madina. She told Daily Trust Saturday that the business is a fruitful and rewarding one.
Along with others like her, they come around residences early in the mornings and mix up with pilgrims to evade arrest from authorities. When there is no pilgrimage, they ‘disappear’ and live very quiet lives.
Nigerians boosting the Saudi economy at every pilgrimage exercise is not one that is ending any time soon as the craze for diamond teeth blossoms.