Saturday, 30 March 2024 04:45

FG shells out N90bn to subsidize 2024 Hajj fares, asks media not to report it

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The federal government has released N90 billion to subsidise the 2024 pilgrimage to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

An impeccable source within the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) revealed this to Daily Trust on Thursday.

The source, who asked not to be named, noted that without this intervention, each of the intending pilgrims would have been requested to add at least N3.5 million to the initial fare which was pegged at N4.9 million.

A top official at the Presidency also confirmed that the federal government “actually provided some financial support for the hajj exercise”.

Recall that the NAHCON had, in December last year, fixed a fare of N4.9 million per pilgrim based on the exchange rate of N897 to a dollar.

In announcing the fare at that time, the commission had quoted the sum of N4,899,000 for southern pilgrims; N4,699,000 for those from the North; while pilgrims from Yola and Maiduguri centres were asked to pay N4,679,000.

Through a statement issued on Sunday by its spokesperson, Fatima Usara, the hajj commission had raised the fare by N1, 918,032.91, jacking up the total amount to N6.8 million.

The commission had also said intending pilgrims had up to March 28, 2024 to make payment for the spiritual exercise.

NAHCON had attributed the latest hike in hajj fare to the foreign exchange crisis which Nigeria has been battling for months.

The NAHCON’s source told Daily Trust that if the commission had received up to N230 billion as support from the federal government, there would have been no need to ask intending pilgrims “to add a dime.”

“The forex crisis has caused a lot of problems. That is why the Hajj Commission has asked intending pilgrims to pay the extra amount of N1.9 million each. The commission actually needed N230 billion to sort out the fare differential caused by the forex crisis.

“The N90 billion support which was provided by the government was announced in the presence of reporters during the inauguration of the board and management of the Hajj Commission which was held at the Office of the Vice Presidency on February 28, 2024. But they (reporters) were asked not to report it. That was why no newspaper carried the report. Or did you see it in any reports?”

“If the intending pilgrims pay ₦1.9 million, it is then it can be balanced,” the source further stated.

He said NAHCON had also contacted state governors “to subsidise the hajj fare for the intending pilgrims in their respective states. Kano has responded by subsiding it by N500,000 for each pilgrim.

“By the previous calculation, the N90 billion given by the federal government can only subsidise 19,000 intending pilgrims by ₦3.5 million. But by spreading it on 50,000 pilgrims, it reduces it to N1.9 million; meaning that the federal government has subsidised each pilgrim by ₦1.6 million before each intending pilgrim was asked to add the remaining N1.9 million,” he said.

A presidency source, who also spoke to Daily Trust yesterday, said it was true that the federal government had provided what he called a “huge financial support” for this year’s hajj exercise.

Asked to confirm whether the federal government released up to N90 billion as support for the pilgrimage, the official simply said: “that might not be far from the truth.”

He added, “Of course, the federal government has offered support for the pilgrims because the pilgrims have been lamenting.

“Normally, any support that the government is giving to any faith, whether the Christian faith or the Muslim faith, the government does not like to announce it openly so that it will not appear as if the government is favouring one faith.”


Daily Trust

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