The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) has urged state pilgrim welfare boards to collect N4.5m as deposits from 2024 hajj pilgrims.
Speaking after a meeting with chairmen and executive secretaries for the state’s pilgrim board Tuesday in Abuja, the Chairman of NAHCON, Zikrullah Hassan, said the fare for the next hajj would be expensive due to the unification of foreign exchange by the federal government.
Hassan noted that with the dollar currently at N750, the commission is not certain what the price for pilgrims would be owing to the fluctuation of forex.
He said the deposit might change depending on the performance of the naira.
It was reported that the price for the 2023 hajj was N2.8m when the exchange rate was N450 to the dollar.
“I must tell you that next year’s hajj is going to be expensive. This is something we must prepare for, starting from today. I am not saying we will be able to know the cost today, but what we must be able to know is that the hajj is going to be expensive.
“This is because the age of the concessionary rate is gone. As we speak now, the forex is at N740 to dollar, so, if you multiply that with the dollar of hajj last year, you can imagine how many more million you will need to add to the cost of hajj.
The government has been clear on it. Will the N740 come down? I don’t know, but I pray it comes down.”
Hassan, who noted that the preparation for the 2024 had begun, said the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia would end the issuance of visa 45 days to Arafah.
He said this would stop state governors from changing the names of approved pilgrims to accommodate new ones.
“By the 29 of April, visa issuance will close. 10 days after, pilgrims will begin to arrive in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
“Unlike what we do when it is two days to the closure of the flight, somebody will say my governor wants some people to go to hajj and look for the slot, the Kingdom says it is gone forever. It means you have between 40 to 50 days to Arafat when you can’t do a visa anymore,” he stated.
He said NAHCON had constituted a committee to look into how a refund would be secured for services not rendered to Nigerian pilgrims during the 2023 hajj.
Reacting, National Coordinator, Independent Hajj Reporters, Ibrahim Muhammed, said Nigeria might not be able to fill the slots to be given to it for next year’s hajj.
Muhammed, who noted that 80 to 90 per cent of hajj payment is done in dollars, urged the government to allow the pilgrims to access concessionary for the dollar to reduce the price.
“This is a manifestation of the current weakening position of the naira against the United States dollar. As you are aware, the hajj fare computation template is about 80 to 90 per cent dollar bases. Air tickets, pilgrims’ accommodation, catering services, transportation within Saudi Arabia, otherwise known as car syndicate, are paid in dollars.
“Even the pilgrims Basic Traveling Allowance (BTA) is paid to them in dollars.”
He said the only naira components in hajj fare are the pilgrims’ uniforms, suitcases and service charges.
“Therefore, the current policy of the federal government on forex will certainly affect the cost of 2024 hajj as announced by the NAHCON chairman.