The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) is facing challenges in preparing Nigeria’s contingent for the 2024 Hajj pilgrimage due to the inability to secure the remaining funds necessary to pay service operators in Saudi Arabia,Daily Trust reports.

NAHCON had previously announced that the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Hajj and Umrah set February 25 as the deadline for signing all contracts and concluding payments into International Bank Account Numbers (IBAN).

Despite having finalized all contracts for the hajj operation, NAHCON is encountering obstacles in making payments to service providers responsible for catering to the needs of pilgrims, including accommodation, transportation, and meals. This delay in payment comes two weeks after Saudi Arabia commenced issuing visas for intending pilgrims.

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The depreciation of the Nigerian currency, the naira, is cited as a significant factor contributing to this situation. Moreover, there is uncertainty surrounding whether President Bola Ahmed Tinubu will approve a subsidized dollar rate, which has led to concerns about potential fare increases.

NAHCON had previously announced a hajj fare of N4.8 million for the 2024 exercise, emphasizing that this price was achieved after negotiating lower rates for various services provided to pilgrims. However, the subsequent increase in the dollar’s value has created uncertainty, prompting NAHCON to seek assistance from the president to mitigate the impact on the fare.

Traditionally, the federal government has subsidized the dollar for pilgrims, keeping the fare relatively low. However, with the current forex crisis, it remains unclear whether the government will continue this practice.

While there is optimism among industry experts regarding potential government intervention, there has been a lack of communication between the presidency and NAHCON regarding subsidizing the hajj fare. This communication gap has resulted in delays in payment to service providers, posing challenges for NAHCON’s preparations.

Despite the ongoing uncertainties, some state pilgrim welfare boards are still receiving deposits from intending pilgrims, further complicating efforts to determine the exact number of participants.

Intending pilgrims express frustration over the lack of communication and uncertainty regarding fare adjustments. While they hope for no fare increases, they acknowledge that if necessary, they will consider additional payments to facilitate their pilgrimage.

NAHCON declined to comment on the issue when contacted, adding to the prevailing uncertainty surrounding the situation.

While President Tinubu has promised to support pilgrims, the exact nature of this support remains unspecified. Some clerics argue that while government intervention in subsidizing hajj fares is appreciated, addressing more pressing issues such as food scarcity and economic hardship should take precedence.

In summary, the delay in securing funds for hajj service operators in Saudi Arabia, coupled with uncertainties regarding fare adjustments and government support, is posing significant challenges for NAHCON and intending pilgrims alike.


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