CASH CRUNCH HITS NIGERIANS’ PREPARATION FOR HAJJ AS LESS THAN HALF OF INTENDING PILGRIMS ABLE TO PAY FARE, ON DEADLINE DAY

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  • ‘High fare will prevent Nigeria from filling slots’

  • Low number not peculiar to Nigeria – NAHCON

 

Nigeria may not be able to fill all the 95,000 hajj seats allocated to it for this year’s pilgrimage as many intending pilgrims are yet to either deposit the fare or pay the balance.

The depreciation of the Nigerian currency, Naira, has jacked up the hajj fare to N4.9 million for this year’s intending pilgrims from the initial minimum N4.5 million pegged by the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON).

Sequel to an adjustment in the methodology for setting the exchange rate, the naira slid to a record low on January 30, 2024 selling for 1,413 against the dollar at the official window.

The NAHCON had, on February 3, said intending pilgrims for this year’s hajj from southern states were required to pay N4,899,000; those from northern states, N4,699,000 and those from Yola and Maiduguri, N4,679,000.

Daily Trust reports that the final dateline, which the commission gave intending for final payments to enable the commission to transfer the money to the service providers before the February 25 deadline set by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, elapses today.

The NAHCON had allocated a total of 75,000 hajj slots to the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory and 20,000 to private tour operators.

Although the commission did not disclose the total number of intending pilgrims that had so far registered, findings by Daily Trust revealed that most of the states were yet to fill half of the slots given them.

2,600 intending pilgrims pay in Kano

The spokesman of the Kano State Pilgrims’ Welfare Board (SPWB), Suleiman Dederi, told our correspondent that only 2,600 of the 5,993 seats allocated to the state have been paid for.

He, however, expressed optimism that the number would increase before the expiration of the deadline as many were still making

Dederi said he believes that numbers will go up before Monday making payments in the banks.

 

Katsina

Of the 4,300 seats allocated to Katsina State, only “a little over 2,000 intending pilgrims” have completed payment, according to the state pilgrims’ board.

 

Adamawa

The Adamawa SPWB said of the 2,448 slots allocated to the state, only 1,778 have been paid for.

The secretary of the board stated, “As of now, 1,778 pilgrims have already paid for their hajj fare, while others are still in the process of making their payments.”

 

Niger

The spokesman of the Niger SPWB,  Jibrin Usman Kodo, told our correspondent that of the 3,592 seats allocated to the state, only 2, 806 intending pilgrims had made deposits.

“The Intending pilgrims from Niger State are in two categories. There are those that have paid the initial deposit of N4.5 million. As of Monday, we have 286 intending pilgrims that have paid the N4.5 million but yet to pay the balance of N199, 000. There are however, those that have paid less than N4.5 million initial deposit and those in this category are 556,” he said.

Edo

Of the 412 hajj slots allocated to Edo State, 250 intending pilgrims have made deposits; while 123 have completed payment. The chairman of the SPWB, Ibrahim Oyarekhua, said: “NAHCON allocated 412 slots to Edo State and about 250 intending pilgrims had made deposit for the initial N4.5 million.”

 

Kwara

The Executive Secretary of the Kwara SPWB, Board, Abdulsalam Abdulkadir, said over 2,000 intending pilgrims had paid fully for hajj out of the 3,419 seats allocated to the state.

FCT

The director of the FCT Muslim Pilgrims’ Welfare Board said less than 2,500 intending pilgrims had so far paid their fares out of the 4,365 allocated to the territory.

 

Gombe

An official of the Gombe SPWB told our correspondent that of the 2,506 hajj seats allocated to the state, only 600 have completed their payments; while over 1,000 have made deposits.

Lagos

About half of the 3,576 hajj slots allocated to Lagos State have been fully paid for, according to the spokesman of the state pilgrims’ welfare board, Taofeek Lawal.

 

Kaduna

The deputy public relations of the Kaduna SPWB, Yunusa Mohammed Abdullahi, told our reporter that over 6,000 hajj seats given to the state.

While he could not give the number of intending pilgrims who had completed their registrations, he said 4,000 had “collected bank tellers for hajj payment so far.”

 

Bauchi

A total of 3,364 hajj seats were given to Bauchi State for this year’s pilgrimage. The Executive Secretary of the SPWB, Abdurrahman Ibrahim Idris, said in December that the board had sold 1,700 of the slots.

Speaking to Daily Trust at the weekend, the spokesman of the board, Muhammad Sani Yunusa, said that the number of the intending pilgrims had increased from the previous 1,700 seats.

“But I can’t give the exact figure of the total number of intending pilgrims that completed their payment for the 2024 Hajj exercise,” he added.

 

Delta

The Delta State chairman of Islamic Affairs, Sheikh Yahaya Ufuoma Mohammed, said 64 slots were allocated to the state.

He said: “Hajj fare for this year is very high. As a result, we cannot, at this moment, disclose the number of those that have made full payment.”

‘High fare will prevent Nigeria from filling slots’

A former chairman of TAFSAN Travels and Tour, an arm of the Nasrullahi-l-fatih Society (NASFAT), Maruf Arowosaye, said with the current fare, it would be difficult for Nigeria to meet the 95,000 slots allocated to it by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Speaking to Daily Trust, he said: “There’s nothing God cannot do, but it’s going to be practically impossible for us to fill our quota because by now, they ought to have closed the process for the states according to demand from Saudi Arabia.

“But as it is now, we’re far from filling our quota but there is nothing Allah cannot do. We cannot run away from the fact that the fare this year is high but the demand and the rent in Saudi Arabia has not increased. Everything boils down to our naira being devalued.

“If Allah calls one, he would be able to make it. Everybody should wait for his/her time. Whoever is able to make it this year, so be it; if you cannot make it, then wait for another time.”

Hajj low registration not peculiar to Nigeria —NAHCON

While confirming the low patronage, NAHCON’s Assistant Director of Public Affairs, Fatima Sanda Usara, noted that the situation is not peculiar to Nigeria.

She told Daily Trust yesterday that Pakistan, Bangladesh and other countries had also announced their inabilities to fill the slots given to them by Saudi Arabia.

She stated: “We don’t pray any action will be taken by Saudi Arabia for Nigeria not filling its slots, but I don’t think there will be any negative impact.”

She called on Nigerians to embrace the Hajj Savings Scheme as it reduces the impact on the naira volatility.

“The savings scheme, the way it is designed, is going to be the best solution to everybody, both the pilgrims and managers, because once you have your savings, you don’t have to be agitating on what to pay. Once your money is in the bank, it’ll be invested and with time and enough profit, the profit will be used to substitute whatever amount the hajj will cost,” she explained.

 

Numbers of Nigerian hajj pilgrims in recent years

In 2015, 91,000 Nigerian pilgrims performed hajj; 77,000 in 2016; 70,000 in 2017; 55,000 in 2018; 68,000 in 2019.

International hajj pilgrims were barred in 2020 and 2021 owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. But in 2022, Nigeria utilized all the 43,000 seats allocated to it. The country also filled all the 95,000 slots given to it in 2023.

 

Additional reports by Hussein Yahaya (Abuja), Abdullateef Aliyu (Lagos), Abdullahi I. Yamadi (Katsina), Abubakar Akote (Minna), Datti Ahmad (Kano), Amina Abdullahi (Yola), Usman A. Bello (Benin), Mumini Abdulkareem (Ilorin), Haruna Gimba (Gombe), Idris U. Momoh (Asaba), Hassan Ibrahim (Bauchi) & Mohammed I. Yaba (Kaduna)

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