Nigerians may spend over N725bn on 2024 Hajj

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Nigerians may spend over N725.1bn on the 2024 edition of the annual Hajj exercise to the Holy lands of Makkah and Medina, The PUNCH reports.

This is following a directive by the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria, urging pilgrims to pay an additional N1.9m balance in accordance with current foreign exchange rates, before the deadline of March 29, 2024.

NAHCON, in a statement signed by the Assistant Director of Public Affairs, Fatima Usara, on Sunday, explained that late and non-remittances of fares, pushed the commission beyond the deadline given by the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, noting, however, that the government had intervened by appealing for cost reductions.

While the additional N1.9m will be paid by pilgrims who earlier paid the N4.9m sum announced by NAHCON in February, those who will be registering newly for the exercise have been directed to pay as much as N8.5m for the exercise.

However, in a list of previously registered pilgrims released by the commission, comprising intending pilgrims from across the 36 states of the federation, the FCT, and the Armed Forces, only 48,414, of the 95,000 pilgrims’ slot allocated to Nigeria had paid the previous N4.8m average price.

With the additional fares now bringing the total to N6.8m minimum for the early registrants, this group of Hajj hopefuls will contribute N329,215,200,000 to this year’s Hajj expense, while the remaining 46,586, assumed to be new registrants paying the sum of N8.5m, will contribute to the added N395,981,000,000, bringing the total to N725,196,200,000.

In 2022, average Hajj fare prices were set at N2.4m naira with a total of 43,000 pilgrims making the trip and filling the allotted seats after the COVID-19 pandemic, average prices in 2023 rose up to about N2.9m, however, the country filled all allocated 95,000 seats.

With the new fares reaching up to over 280 per cent of fare prices in 2022, and with only four days left until the deadline for payments, Nigeria may be unable to fill the allotted seats, and with the option to withdraw funds, this year’s final number of pilgrims may drop even further.

Announcing the hike in a statement on Sunday, the commission said, “It is widely acknowledged that Hajj preparation follows a strict timeline. As for the 2024 Hajj, the preparatory timeline released by the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah began earlier than usual and it is expected to end before its normal timing.

“NAHCON endeavored to adhere to the schedule outlined by the ministry. However, non-to-late remittances of Hajj fare by those concerned necessitated adjustments, resulting in two date shifts with the final being the 12th of February 2024.

“Recall that as of 31st December 2023, Naira was still at N897:00 to a Dollar at the banks. These shifts unfortunately pushed the Hajj fare collection deadline to fall after harmonization of foreign exchange rates, presenting a new and significant challenge.”

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