Fare hike: Many Nigerians may miss Hajj, says group

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By Olugbenga Salami

Following Sunday’s announcement by the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria, NAHCON of an upward review of Hajj 2024 fare, a civil society organization, CSO, the Independent Hajj Reporters, IHR, has asked President Bola Tinubu to save pilgrims from the county from missing this year’s holy pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia.

NAHCON had earlier in December 2023 fixed a fare of N4.9 million per pilgrim based on an exchange rate of N897:00 to a Dollar.

However, authorities at both the state and the federal governments could not meet with deadlines set by Saudi Arabian authorities to remit operational funds for hajj services despite extensions given because NAHCON was waiting for the federal government’s promised intervention to grant lower forex rates equivalent to the number of registered pilgrims from Nigeria.

With the approved timeframe for visa processing ticking away, NAHCON on Sunday, therefore, announced that due to the failure to meet obligations as when due, it has no option but to ask the about 50,000 intending pilgrims that have paid the initial fare of N4.9 million to now pay additional N1.918 million on or before March 28.

IHR, in a statement issued on Monday by its National Coordinator, Ibrahim Muhammad, said “it has become imperative for governments at both the federal and state levels to provide intervention, else, Hajj 2024 will witness the lowest Nigerian contingent ever or Nigerian pilgrims may miss the opportunity of a lifetime to perform this year’s hajj.”

The statement reads in parts: “As a Civil Society Organization with ears to the ground when it comes to Hajj matters, we are sure that over 90% of those who paid the initial deposit of N4.9 million cannot afford to raise additional N1.9 million within four days.”

“It has, therefore, become imperative for us to call on the state governors and the federal government to come in and provide immediate succour to the pilgrims by providing additional payments as a form of subsidy.

“Currently, NAHCON is on the verge of missing out on the deadline of 29th April set by Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah to process visas for Nigerian registered pilgrims – there will be no hajj without a visa.

“For example, it will take states’ Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Boards a minimum of one week to make announcements in their various states for pilgrims to be aware of the new increase. Over 65 per cent of those who have registered for the 2024 hajj are farmers and it will take an additional one week for those who have the means to be able to raise the N1.9 million increase announced by NAHCON.