• Tuesday, April 23, 2024
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BusinessDay

Nigerians set to spend over N725 billion on Hajj

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Nigerians may spend over N725.1 billion naira, a combined fare, to travel to Mecca and Medina for the 2024 Hajj pilgrimage, a BusinessDay checks show.

Following a directive by the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), intending pilgrims have been required to pay an additional N1.9 million balance in view of the current foreign exchange rates, pegging March 29, 2024 as the deadline.

NAHCON, in a statement signed by Fatima Usara, assistant director of Public Affairs on Sunday, explained that late and non-remittances of fares pushed the commission beyond the deadline given by the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah.

Usara noted that the government had intervened by appealing for cost reductions, resulting in the amount published.

“NAHCON endeavored to adhere to the schedule outlined by the ministry. However, non-to-late remittances of Hajj fare by those concerned necessitated adjustments, resulting in two date shifts with the final being the 12th of February 2024.

“Recall that as of December 31, 2023, naira was still at N897:00 to a dollar at the banks. These shifts unfortunately pushed the Hajj fare collection deadline to fall after harmonization of foreign exchange rates, presenting a new and significant challenge,” the Commission said.

While the additional N1.9 million will be paid by pilgrims who earlier paid the N4.9 million sum announced by the Hajj commission in February, those who will be registering newly for the exercise have been directed to pay as much as N8.5 million for the exercise.

However, in a list of previously registered pilgrims released by the commission, comprising intending pilgrims from across the 36 states of the federation, the FCT, and the Armed Forces, only 48,414, of the 95,000 pilgrims’ slots allocated to Nigeria had paid the previous N4.8 million average price.

With the additional fares now bringing the total to N6.8 million minimum for the early registrants, Nigeria’s pilgrims will contribute N329,215,200,000 to this year’s Hajj expense, while the remaining 46,586, assumed to be new registrants paying the sum of N8.5 million, will contribute to the added N395,981,000,000, bringing the total to N725,196,200,000.

In 2022, average Hajj fare prices were set at N2.4 million naira with a total of 43,000 pilgrims making the trip and filling the allotted seats after the COVID-19 pandemic, average prices in 2023 rose up to about N2.9 million, however, the country filled all allocated 95,000 seats.

With the new fares reaching up to over 280 per cent of fare prices in 2022, and with only four days left until the deadline for payments, Nigeria may be unable to fill the allotted seats, and with the option to withdraw funds, this year’s final number of pilgrims may drop even further.