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FG, Kano, Kebbi, Kogi subsidise hajj fares

As the deadline for payment of fares for the 2024 hajj elapsed by 12am on Friday (today), respite has come the way of some intending…

As the deadline for payment of fares for the 2024 hajj elapsed by 12am on Friday (today), respite has come the way of some intending pilgrims as both the federal and some state governments like Kano, Kebbi, Kogi, and Ogun have provided subsidies to offset the balance of funds for the exercise.
However, some intending pilgrims have continued to ask the state Muslim pilgrims’ welfare boards to refund their deposits due to their inability to raise the balance of N1.9 million announced on Sunday by the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON).
This is as other intending pilgrims were making efforts to pay the balance by themselves.
As of press time, Daily Trust could not establish whether the deadline for the payment would be extended as there was no information in that respect from NAHCON.
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The federal government has released N90 billion to subsidise the 2024 pilgrimage to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, it was learnt.
Impeccable sources within the NAHCON revealed this to Daily Trust on Thursday.
The sources, 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.
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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 minimum fare of N4.9 million per pilgrim, based on the exchange rate of N897 to a dollar by then.
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 yesterday (March 28, 2024) to pay up the extra N1.9 million for the spiritual exercise.
The NAHCON had attributed the latest hike in the hajj fare to the foreign exchange crisis which Nigeria has been battling for months.
One of our sources in NAHCON disclosed 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 source said: “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 promise for 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 President on February 28, 2024.”

The source said the NAHCON had also contacted state governors to subsidise the hajj fare for the intending pilgrims in their respective states.

“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,” the source further explained.

A presidency source, who also spoke to Daily Trust on Thursday, 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,” he added.

When contacted, NAHCON’s spokesperson, said: “The intervention of the federal government for NAHCON can’t be quantified monetarily and we are still calculating. By the time we determine whatever the government has done, we will let everybody know.”

 

Kebbi, Kogi settle balance for pilgrims

Our correspondent reports that the Kebbi State government has paid the additional N1.9m increase in hajj fare for the state’s intending pilgrims.

The chief press secretary to the governor, Ahmed Idris, who confirmed the development to our correspondent, said “The governor has directed that the additional hajj fare for the pilgrims be paid.”

He said over 4,875 pilgrims are expected to depart the state for this year’s hajj in Saudi Arabia.

Also, the Kogi State government has paid over N800 million to secure clearance for 460 intending pilgrims from the state to perform the 2024 holy pilgrimage to Makkah.

Ismaila Isah, the Special Adviser on Media to Governor Ahmed Ododo disclosed this to Daily Trust in Lokoja.

He said the Kogi State Hajj Commission effected full payment via its contribution in the Hajj Savings Scheme organised by NAHCON.

“Kogi State now fully cleared off the over N800 million which should have been paid by its over 460 pilgrims that are now set to perform this year’s pilgrimage to Makkah,” he said.

 

Kano subsidises Hajj fare with N1.4bn

Daily Trust had reported on Thursday that Governor Abba Kabir Yusuf had approved a subsidy of N500,000 for each of the intending pilgrims from the state.

The Director General, Kano State Pilgrims Welfare Board, Alhaji Lamin Dan Baffa, disclosed this during a media briefing in Kano.

According to him, the state government will pay a total sum of N1.4 billion for the 2,096 registered pilgrims.

Dan Baffa added that with this subsidy, intending pilgrims should now pay N1.4 million instead of N1.9 million.

He said the subsidy was extended only to those who had paid the initial hajj fare of N4.7 million and were duly registered.

 

Osun pledges to assist pilgrims 

In Osun, 1,540 intending pilgrims registered with the Osun State Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Board and paid the initial fare.

The Chairman of the Board, Dr. Morufu Olawale Isola said the intending pilgrims from the state were responding to the fare hike of N1.9 million announced by NAHCON.

A reliable source said at least 400 intending pilgrims from the state had paid the N1.9 million extra fee, while others were processing the payment. 

Meanwhile, Governor Nurudeen Adeleke had said that the government would do everything necessary to aid smooth hajj operation for pilgrims from the state.

In a chat with Daily Trust after the sod-turning of the Osun State Hajj Camp in Osogbo, where Adeleke was asked whether the state government would subsidize the extra cost of the hajj fare for Osun pilgrims, the governor said: “The way God has been assisting us, it is the same way that we will assist them.”

 

More pilgrims paying balance in Lagos, Katsina, Jigawa, others 

Our correspondents report that there is renewed commitment to pay the balance of the hajj fare in some states.

In Lagos, findings indicated that over 50 per cent of intending pilgrims have topped up their balance as of Thursday, while many others have sought for refund.

When contacted last night, the Executive Secretary of the Lagos State Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Board, Alhaji Saheed Onipede, said more pilgrims were turning up to top up.

On those seeking a refund for not being able to top up, he said they were yet to get their application.

In Katsina State, the pilgrims’ welfare board confirmed that some of the intending pilgrims had gone to their zones to complete the additional sum.

The Public Relations Officer of the board, Badaru Bello Karofi, told our reporter that over 2,600 pilgrims had registered in the state before the recent increment of the fare.

He, however, said the number of those who had paid the additional money could not be ascertained as at press time because the payment was done at the zonal level.

Regarding the state government’s intervention, Karofi said the board was yet to receive any communication.

When contacted, the Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Ibrahim Kaula Mohammed, promised to get back to our correspondent but did not do so as of press time.

In an interview with Daily Trust in Dutse, the information officer of Jigawa State Pilgrims Board, Murtala Usman Madobi, said the state’d intending pilgrims were rushing to pay the additional fee ahead of the deadline.

He said even though he could not give the actual number of people that had paid the fare, the figure would be at least 50 per cent.

The Secretary of the Taraba State Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Board, Alhaji Umar Ahmed Ciroma, has disclosed that there was a rush by intending pilgrims in the state to pay the balance of N1.9 million.

He said over 1,000 intending pilgrims had paid a deposit of N4.7 million for this year’s hajj before the fare was increased.

He told Daily Trust in a telephone interview that some of the intending pilgrims were in the banks paying the balance of the new fare, as at afternoon yesterday. 

And in Gombe State, our correspondent, who visited the state office of the Muslim pilgrims welfare board, reported that intending pilgrims were busy completing the additional payment.

A staff at the board told our correspondent that out of the 1,228 people that earlier paid N4.9 million, about 600 intending pilgrims had paid the additional N1.9 million between Monday and Wednesday.

The Executive Secretary of the Bauchi State Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Board, Imam Abdurrahman Ibrahim Idris, said 2,290 intending pilgrims had already made payment of N4, 699,000 hajj fare before the increment.

“We have already mobilised our traditional and religious to support us and we are very optimistic that the plans and measures put in place would yield positive result,” he said while commenting about the efforts to ensure the payment of the balance.

When contacted on the number of pilgrims that had completed their payment in Bauchi, the information officer of the board, Muhammad Sani Yunusa told our reporter to wait and get the figure after the deadline.

Our reporter in Kaduna gathered from sources at the state pilgrims’ welfare agency that some of the intending pilgrims who had paid their N4.9 million have commenced the process of balancing the N1.9 million.

A staff at the agency, who did not want to be mentioned, confirmed that some of the intending pilgrims had visited the agency to collect tellers to balance the remaining fare, while others were making transfers using their bank’s app before the deadline.

 

Some seek refund in Plateau

Some intending pilgrims in Jos, the Plateau State capital, have asked the state Muslim pilgrims’ welfare board to refund their initial deposits as they were not happy with an increase in the hajj fare.

The intending pilgrims said it would be difficult to raise additional money after being told that they had finally paid for the travel. 

Aliyu Adamu, one of the intending pilgrims, said: “We are not happy with the increment. We woke up and heard that the hajj fare has been increased to N6.8 million. We were asked to pay a certain amount of money which we have paid. Why are they telling us another story? I don’t have money to complete it. I want my money back.”

Zakaria Aliyu, another pilgrim, said: “The first time I heard about the increment, I was not happy. Some of us could not sleep or eat the day we heard about it. Even when people were asked to pay N4.6 million, many could not afford it. Now, we are being asked to pay an additional N1.9 million. This increment will prevent many of us from going for the hajj.”

 

Only 100 of 1,900 completed payment in Yobe

The Executive Chairman of Yobe State Pilgrims Commission, Alhaji Mai Aliyu Usman said no fewer than 1,900 intending pilgrims had earlier paid N4,679,000 for the 2024 hajj.

He said the funds were transferred to NAHCON before the recent increment which had halted the process. 

He said most of the intending pilgrims in the state are herders and the commission had contacted them via their phone numbers to pay the extra fee latest by yesterday.

Usman said their response was not encouraging, as only 100 intending pilgrims had completed their payment as of Wednesday.

According to him, the state government paid an additional N1.9 million to some intending pilgrims sponsored by the state government.

Commenting on whether the state governments would subsidise the extra cost for all, he said, “Do you think the government will pay 2 or 3 billion naira? The amount is too much for the government.”

 

Famers, herders worst hit in FCT

The FCT Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Board yesterday said farmers and herders in rural communities are finding it difficult to pay the N1.9 million balance required from the intending pilgrims. 

The Board’s Public Relations Officer, Muhammad Lawal Aliyu, told Daily Trust on phone yesterday that the few ones that were coming to pay were the elite, adding that both farmers and herders, who had earlier made some deposits, were complaining that the time frame was too short.

 

Contributions from Isiaka Wakili, Hussein Yahaya, Abbas Jimoh (Abuja), Ado A. Musa (Jos), Ismail Adebayo (Birnin Kebbi), Lubabatu I Garba (Kano), Tijjani Ibrahim (Katsina), Habibu I. Gimba (Damaturu), Ali Rabiu Ali (Dutse), Haruna G. Yaya (Gombe),  Hassan Ibrahim (Bauchi), Mohammed I. Yaba (Kaduna), Tijani Labaran (Lokoja), Hameed Oyegbade (Osogbo),  Mumini AbdulKareem (Ilorin),  Hope Abah (Makurdi), Amina Abdullahi (Yola), Abubakar Akote (Minna), Usman A. Bello (Benin), Magaji l. Hunkuyi (Jalingo), Peter Moses (Abeokuta), Tosin Tope (Akure), Eyo Charles (Calabar), Titus Eleweke (Awka) & Abdullateef Aliyu (Lagos)

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