EXCLUSIVE: Citizens express concern over increased Hajj fare

Sharon EboesomiMarch 29, 20248 min

Senator Ali Ndume had earlier condemned the increase, describing it as unfair and a calculated attempt to prevent Nigerian Muslims from taking part in the pilgrimage.

Citizens express concern over increased Hajj fare

The Governor of Kano State, Abba Yusuf, has paid N500,000 each for 2,900 intending Kano pilgrims who will perform this year’s Hajj under the umbrella of the Kano State Pilgrims Welfare Board.

Governor Yusuf disclosed this on Wednesday in a post on his Facebook page, which according to him, is to enable the intending pilgrims to embark on the 2024 pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia. 

The Facebook post read, “Following the sudden increase of N1.9 million Hajj fare increase by the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria, I have approved a subsidy of N500,000 each for intending pilgrims from Kano, embarking on the 2024 pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia.

“With this, intending pilgrims who have registered and paid the initial total deposit of N4.7 million and N4.5 million with the State Pilgrims Board will now deposit N1.4 million out of the N1.9 million increase.” 

OrderPaper recalls that the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) through the commission’s spokesperson, Fatima Sanda-Usara, released a statement on Sunday announcing the new rate change saying the increase was necessary given the exchange rate of N1,474.00 to the dollar. 

The statement claims that around 49,000 pilgrims planning to travel under the public quota had already given the commission N4.9 million at a time when the value of the naira was still N897 to the dollar at the banks.

However, these pilgrims, who had previously paid the commission N4.9 million each, have been instructed to pay an extra N1.9 million each by no later than March 28, while the cost of new registration is N8.5 million.

Following this statement, Senator Ali Ndume (APC, Borno South), condemned the increase,  describing it as unfair and a calculated attempt to prevent Nigerian Muslims, particularly those who are participating for the first time, from taking part in the pilgrimage.

According to Ndume, pilgrims who had previously paid the old fees cannot be compelled to pay an extra fee of almost N2 million, barely one week to the end of the registration. 

READ ALSO: Ndume condemns hike in Hajj fees, urges Tinubu, Governors to pay for pilgrims 

To enable first-timers to perform the Hajj in the Holy Land this year, he pleaded with President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to approve the payment of the additional expense as a subsidy. He also stated that if intending pilgrims are unable to pay the revised fee set by NAHCON, the relevant State Governments should take on the additional expense.

OrderPaper spoke with Abdulqudus Ogundapo, a Muslim faithful, on Thursday, March 28, 2024, who noted that Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam.

You know, as a Muslim, we have five pillars of Islam. The last one is Hajj. It’s a form of migration, a holy place for Muslims where we pray and we believe that whatever prayer we make or supplicate, will definitely be accepted.”

Speaking further, he called for the subsidisation of the fees to enable all intending pilgrims to participate in the Hajj.

He said, “My opinion still goes in line with Ndume’s submission for the subsidisation of at least first-timers because it will deprive a lot of first-timers from proceeding to the Hajj. It will deprive them of a lot.

“Most of them had balanced payments before it was announced, even before the Naira started inflating and you know the economic situation of the country. Sorting out that huge amount of money again would be somehow frustrating for a lot of people.

“So I think it would be nice for governors, even the federal government, to subsidise the increment. Probably it might be a half payment or any form of subsidisation. It would be fine and it would even be fair on those intended pilgrims.

“However, we’ve seen governors turning up from yesterday. The Kano State government announced 500,000 and I am sure that in a couple of days, other governors will definitely turn up because it’s not something that will be easy on Nigerians, considering the economic situation,” he added.

Speaking on Ndume’s claim that the increased fee was a calculated attempt to prevent Nigerian Muslims, particularly first-timers from taking part in the pilgrimage, another Muslim faithful, Abdullateef Salau said Ndume was only speaking from a political perspective and not from an economic perspective.

If you are to speak from an economic perspective, you’ll realise that what he actually said was wrong.

“Hajj is a pillar of Islam and is compulsory for every Muslim who is financially and physically capable to embark on Hajj.

“Hajj Commission, an agency of government set up to manage Islamic pilgrimage of Nigerian Muslims cannot deliberately deny Nigerian Muslims from participating in Hajj, knowing fully well that this is compulsory for every Muslim.”

He further stressed the possible reason for the fee increase. He said, “Naira keeps depreciating and Hajj operations cost in dollars because it’s not something done locally 

“When everything is done, you have to take your pilgrims to Saudi Arabia and even some of the services you do in Saudi Arabia cost in dollars, the air tickets, hotel accommodation in Saudi Arabia, transportation in Saudi Arabia, feeding in Saudi Arabia and some other services.

“They have to provide for the pilgrims in Saudi Arabia and everything is cost in dollars and it means that dollars determine the rate of the Hajj fare.

“For a very long time, the cost of Hajj, all the components starting from visa, air ticket, hotel accommodation, feeding and transportation in Saudi Arabia, if you sum up all the components,  it’s still within the range of four thousand to five thousand dollars, especially for pilgrims coming from West Africa. Over time, if you check Nigerian exchange rates right from 15 years ago and now compared to the Hajj fare, you’ll realise that everything is still within the range of four thousand to five thousand dollars.

“What is actually changing, is the value of naira and not the real costs of Hajj operation. So the value of the naira is depreciating. That’s why you see the Hajj fare keeps increasing every year, year in, year out, but the services are still the same,” he added.

Sharon Eboesomi

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