Islam

Hajj: Pilgrims may pay N2.5m as Bayelsa, Imo, Rivers get zero allocation

The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria on Thursday said it had projected that Nigerian pilgrims may pay as much as N2.5 million to participate in the 2022 pilgrimage exercise.

The amount is over 50 per cent increase from N1million paid by pilgrims in 2019 before the outbreak of COVID-19, which stalled Hajj operations.

This is just as Kaduna and Sokoto received the highest allocation of 2,491 and 2,404 hajj slots while states like Bayelsa, Imo, and Rivers got zero allocation.

The Chairman of NAHCON, Alhaji Zikrullah Hassan, announced the projection during a meeting with executives of the State Pilgrims Board for the preparation of the 2022 Hajj.

According to him, the projection of the increase was due to an increase in the foreign exchange rate, a rise in inflation by almost 10 per cent, and the increase of Value Added Tax from 5 to 15 per cent by Saudi authorities.

Hassan said the commission did not have control over the factors.

“The projection is on the increase because as of 2019, the exchange rate for Hajj was N306, but now it will be at N410 to a dollar. We all know that Hajj is 97 per cent by foreign exchange for food, airlines and others.

“In addition, Saudi Arabia has increased their VAT from 5 to 15 per cent. We will try our best to mitigate whatever hardship this will cost the pilgrims. Still, I am sure for many people who wished two or three years ago to go to the holy land, and this won’t be a sacrifice too many,” he said.

The NAHCON CEO said out of 43,008 slots given to Nigeria, 33,976 would go to states. At the same time, 9,032 would be allocated to private tour operators.

Speaking on the sharing formula, he said Kaduna and Sokoto received the highest allocation of 2,491 and 2,404, while states like Bayelsa, Imo, and Rivers got zero allocation.

Explaining why these states were not given a slot, the NAHCON boss said the states did not meet the requirements to be licensed to organise Hajj.

“The commission licenses the tour operators that are managing Hajj and Umrah. So equally are all states licensed. So those states without allocation have not met the requirements to be licensed, so they can’t perform.

“When a state is not licensed, it is not permitted for that state to organise Hajj or Umrah. For Muslims in that state and are desirous of performing Hajj, the commission would care for that,” he said.

On the backlog of payments already made by pilgrims, he said selection would be made based on a first-come-first-serve basis with a sharing formula of 40 per cent for the regular Hajj and 60 per cent for those on Hajj Savings Scheme.

Hassan said the prospective pilgrims would be required to be fully vaccinated with a booster shot, saying that a PCR test is also a must.

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