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Hajj 2017: Senate calls for fare review

The Senate has urged the Federal Government to direct the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) to review the 2017 Hajj fare downwards to realistic…

The Senate has urged the Federal Government to direct the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) to review the 2017 Hajj fare downwards to realistic amount, considering the recession.

The upper chamber also directed the commission to reverse the unpopular, much-talked-about forced-feeding policy since it negated the principle of freedom of choice for pilgrims.

It equally mandated its Committee on Foreign Affairs to investigate the circumstances surrounding the present feeding regime and exorbitant airfare as fixed by NAHCON with a view to exposing any sharp practice therein.

This was sequel to a motion on “Extortion of Pilgrims by the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria’’ sponsored by Sen. Ibrahim Danbaba (APC-Sokoto) at Wednesday’s plenary.

In the motion, he said that the commission was responsible for regulation of matters concerning welfare of pilgrims, including but not limited to approval of annual Hajj fare payable by intending pilgrims.

Danbaba disclosed that on May 29, NAHCON released the approved 2017 fares for 23 states, including Sokoto, Kano, Kaduna, Ogun, Osun and Anambra.

“The approved fare packages for the 23 states average about N1, 550,000 per pilgrim,” he said.

He noted that approved Tour of Operators in Nigeria, which were profit-making businesses were offering cheaper Hajj packages to intending pilgrims.

“For instance, Hasha Travel and Tours is offering a package of N1, 250,000 inclusive of 500 dollars pocket money per pilgrim. This is about N300, 000 lower than the average package approved by the Hajj Commission.’’

The lawmaker further said that the cost of feeding the pilgrims which was built into the fare packages constituted a burden on the pilgrims whose rights were limited.

He said that the 2017 packages approved by the commission lacked competitiveness when compared with the package offered by private tour operators.

Seconding the motion, Sen. Isa Misau (APC-Bauchi) said “we are not talking about appropriation but exploitation, because this N1.5 million the commission is charging is high because they can do with a fare N800, 000.

“Some people are taking the advantage under this government that is fighting corruption to enrich themselves.

“Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam which if you have the privilege, you can go.

“A lot of people have the means to go, but we are talking of the exploitation from the Hajj Commission.

“We must check the situation because people are using this avenue to enrich themselves. This is not fair. This should be reviewed to N800, 000.’’

On his part, Sen. Umaru Kurfi (APC-Katsina) noted that the exorbitant Hajj fare was as a result of the increase in the exchange rate of Naira, adding however, that the fare should be reduced to make it affordable to all intending pilgrims.

In his remarks, President of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki, urged the committee to submit its recommendation within seven days. 

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