…Says fare can be lower than current rate
From: Ismail Omipidan
The Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) has joined other stakeholders in hajj affairs, in the country, to protest the high cost of the 2017 hajj fares.
NSCIA is under the leadership of its President-General and Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar.
While warning that hajj should not be commercialised, the NSCIA also called for the urgent review of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) Act.
The NSCIA, which is saddled with the responsibility of superintending the affairs of Islam and Muslims in Nigeria, equally wants the Federal Government to hands off its sponsorship of pilgrims, adding that if given the opportunity to manage hajj affairs, intending pilgrims would pay lower than the over N1 million being demanded for this year’s hajj.
Following the release of this year’s hajj fare by NAHCON, which pegged the fare at about N1.5 million, stakeholders have continued to bemoan the fare, describing it as being” ridiculously high.”
Only last week, Amb. Usman Darma, a Kano-based international tour operator and Managing Director of Darma Air Services, argued on a radio programme, monitored by Daily Sun, that this year’s Hajj fare was inflated and that NAHCON has for years been extorting Nigerian Muslims in the name of hajj.
But NAHCON chairman, Abdullahi Mohammed, has consistently defended the Commission’s position, saying that ” in actual terms, the component that determine the hajj fare is the dollar; the official exchange rate last year was N197 to a dollar but this year, it is N305 and when you multiply it by 4,805, which is the total fare per pilgrim, it will give you about N1.5 million”.
Mohammed said further that “the bottom line is the exchange rate, which NAHCON has no control over. Government considers the sensitivity and the importance of hajj and allows us even to enjoy the official exchange rate. If we are to use the prevailing bank rate of N368 to the dollar, the cost will be between N1.8 million and N1.9 million.”
However, the NSCIA, on Monday, joined the fray.
In a press statement signed by its Director of Administration, Ustaz Isa Okonkwo, a copy of which was made available to Daily Sun, the Council said “We have observed with keen interest the controversy on the hike of 2017 hajj fares as announced by the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON).
“The position of Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) on Hajj remains as: Whatever concession is given any other Nigerian travelers (including non-Muslim pilgrims) is due and should be accorded to Hujjaj (Nigerian Pilgrims to Mecca).
Nigerian Muslims do not demand any other special concessions since Hajj is a religious duty for which we are responsible.
“Federal Government of Nigeria should hand Hajj-matters (except consular & security) to the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA). It is Government involvement that is responsible for the high cost for obvious reasons.
“The committee set up by the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) under the leadership of Gen. A.B. Mamman (Rtd) to work out the modus-operandi of transfer has not been given the required support (particularly in the area of statistics) by National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON).
“Hajj should not be commercialised at the expense of the masses who struggle to fulfill their religious obligation, hence the need to explore the cheapest cost for a comfortable and safe-hajj performance.
“The Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) is therefore of the view that Hajj-fare can be less than it is, if all parties are genuinely consulted for an appropriate solution and strategy. The NAHCON Act is due for an urgent amendment to remove the wrong notion that Muslims rely on National purse for the performance of their religious obligation.