Group asks Nigerian government to subsidise airfare for intending pilgrims

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A group, the Independent Hajj Reporters (IHR), has called on President Bola Tinubu to intervene in Nigeria’s preparation for the 2024 Hajj by subsidising the fare for pilgrims.

The group made the call, in a statement by Ibrahim Mohammed, on Monday, following the increment in the fare to the holy land.

It said Nigeria risks failing to fill its 95,000 slots if the president fails to act.

The call for intervention is coming on the heels of the announced increment in the 2024 hajj fare by the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON).

On Sunday, NAHCON announced an increase in the pilgrimage rate, attributing it to the depreciation of the Naira against the US dollar. 

The commission instructed intending pilgrims who had already paid N4.9 million to pay an additional N1.9 million.

It also increased the fare to N8.5 million for fresh registration.

IHR urged President Tinubu to subsidise those who have paid the N4.6 million deposit.

“We are, therefore, appealing on behalf of all Nigerian Muslims that emergency interventions are provided so that pilgrims who have at least paid the initial deposit of N4.9 million are not denied the chance to fulfil this all-important religious obligation,” the group said.

It noted that many pilgrims may not be able to afford the additional N1.9 million just as it raised concerns about the window for the payment.

“We are sure that over 90 per cent of those who paid the initial deposit of N4.9 million cannot afford to raise an 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,” the statement reads in part.

Speaking further on the 27 March deadline set by NAHCON, the group said the window for the additional payment is unattainable.

“It will take states Muslim pilgrim’s 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.

READ ALSO: 2024 Hajj: NAHCON increases Hajj fare amidst naira crash

“If the pilgrims were able to pay the additional increase, then States Muslims Pilgrims boards will need a few days to transmit the collection to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for the apex bank to begin the process of transferring the said sum to NAHCON’s International Bank Account Number (IBAN) in Saudi Arabia. It is only after this that payments can be made to Saudi-based service providers,” IHR said.

Religious pilgrimage is a very divisive issue in Nigeria as many believe that government should not be involved in the process. Some also say that religion is a private matter hence government’s involvement is needless.

Meanwhile, the Oronsaye report recommended the scrapping of NAHCON and the National Christian Pilgrimage Commission (NCPC).

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