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Price hike may deprive Nigerians of 2024 Hajj

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By Abiodun Okunloye

NAHCON announced an increase of ₦1.9 million with a deadline of four days.

A plea has been made by the Independent Hajj Reporters (IHR), a civil society organisation (CSO), for the federal and state governments to provide subsidies for fares in order to ensure that Nigerian pilgrims are able to participate in the 2024 pilgrimage. The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) recently announced a price increase of ₦1.9 million for hajj fares, with a deadline of four days for payment. Previously, the commission had set the 2024 hajj fare at ₦4.9 million.

The increase in cost by ₦1.9 million means that intending pilgrims who had previously paid ₦4.9 million will now have to pay ₦6.8 million. In a statement released, Ibrahim Mohammed, the coordinator of IHR, expressed concern that Nigeria may see a decrease in the number of its pilgrims this year unless immediate action is taken. Mohammed reiterated that warnings about the consequences of late registration had been given to NAHCON in the previous months.

They urgently governors offer subsidy relief to the pilgrims.

He mentioned that the majority of those who deposited money initially might not have the means to contribute more within four days. He explained that NAHCON could not meet the deadline set by the Saudi Arabia ministry of hajj for transferring funds due to the commission awaiting intervention from the federal government. They urgently need the state governors and federal government to step in and offer quick relief to the pilgrims by giving them extra financial assistance in the form of subsidies, the statement explains.

Therefore, NAHCON is at risk of missing the April 29 deadline set by Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah for processing visas for Nigerian pilgrims. Failure to meet this deadline will result in no hajj for those without visas. In his opinion, the time frame of four days given to pay the extra fare is insufficient. He suggested that the Muslim pilgrim welfare boards in each state would require a week to ensure that the information is effectively communicated.

65% of participants for the 2024 journey are farmers.

According to him, the majority of participants for 2024 are farmers, comprising over 65%. He added that those with the financial resources will need an extra week to gather the ₦1.9 million additional fee introduced by NAHCON. Once the pilgrims make the extra payment, the Muslim pilgrimage board will coordinate with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to transfer the funds to NAHCON’s International Bank Account Number (IBAN) in Saudi Arabia. Only then can payments be made to service providers in Saudi Arabia after a few days.

President Bola Tinubu is urged to step in and offer necessary assistance to ensure smooth visa processing and airlift of pilgrims. It is crucial that he does so without burdening the pilgrims with any additional costs for the upcoming 2024 hajj, which is set to begin in 45 days. Failure to meet this requirement could result in Nigeria sending fewer than 10,000 pilgrims to Hajj 2024, falling far short of the allocated 95,000 slots and potentially leading to Nigerian pilgrims being unable to participate in the 2024 pilgrimage.

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Hajj is the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, and is a mandatory religious duty for Muslims that must be carried out at least once in their lifetime by all adult Muslims who are physically and financially able to do so. It is a time of spiritual reflection, unity, and solidarity among Muslims from around the world. It is a deeply meaningful and transformative experience for those who undertake the pilgrimage and is considered one of the Five Pillars of Islam.

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