Hajj 2022: Pilgrims to pay more as naira falls

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  • 150,000 visitors from Nigeria jostle for 45,000 slots

  • States suspend form sales; fares can reach 2.5 million naira

  • We await Saudi authorities on guidelines – NAHCON

Potential pilgrims to Saudi Arabia from Nigeria would likely pay more this year due to the deteriorating value of the naira, Daily Trust reports.

It is even then that there is anxiety among stakeholders and future pilgrims about the 2022 hajj, as around 150,000 pilgrims could compete for around 45,000 places, which corresponds to the allocation of seats planned by the Saudi authorities for Nigeria.

There was no hajj in 2020 and 2021 following the COVID-19 pandemic, which has ravaged the world with several countries locked down to contain the spread of the virus.

Therefore, some of the thousands of prospective pilgrims who paid for the spiritual journey in 2020 and 2021 said they hoped to perform the hajj exercise this year in addition to those who also hoped to pay.

Respite came for many Muslims, especially pilgrims around the world when the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia announced about 10 days ago that one million pilgrims would perform the Hajj in 2022. , of which 85% would be allocated to external pilgrims while the remaining percentage would be for Saudi residents.

The million is 50% lower than the usual figure of two million pilgrims who performed the pre-COVID-19 exercise.

Before COVID, Nigeria had 95,000 slots for states and private hajj operators.

But with Saudi authorities reducing the number, stakeholders say slots would be 50% or less than the usual 95,000 slots, implying that Nigeria could get between 45,000 and 50,000 slots for states and private tour operators.

It should be remembered that around 65,000 carried out the exercise in 2019, including 45,450 for States and 20,000 for private tour operators.

With the benchmark of 65,000, stakeholders envision a backlog of 130,000 or more future pilgrims jostling for expected slots from Saudi Arabia.

It has also been learned that the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) plans to reach 50,000 people or less, as most countries do, due to Saudi Arabia’s reduced time slots.

The Hajj is one of the pillars of Islam, which every Muslim with financial means is required to perform at least once in his life.

Imminent price hike

Findings by Daily Trust revealed that many would-be pilgrims contacted both state pilgrim protection offices and tour operators during the 2022 hajj without getting concrete information on how.

But our correspondent has learned that the hajj fare for this year could be between 2.5 million naira and 3 million naira depending on current economic realities.

Major components of the hajj fare include airfare, accommodation in Makkah and Madinah, and Basic Travel Allowance (BTA), among others.

Daily Trust reports that the hajj fare in 2019 was around 1.5 million naira, which is the current price of Umrah (lesser Hajj). At that time the official exchange rate was 306 naira to the dollar, but now the official rate is 416 naira and 580 naira/585 naira on the black market.

Also, it has been learned that many Umrah pilgrims pay up to N500,000 for visas while it was N250,000.

Another source told our correspondent that virtually all service providers in Saudi Arabia have doubled their prices.

“Certainly the cost of accommodation has increased, the cost of tent in Mina and Arafat will not be the same and all of these will determine the cost of the hajj fare,” the informed source said.

Also, the cost of airfare is going to be high as many airlines have recently increased the fare in domestic markets due to the high cost of aviation fuel known as Jet A1 and the general increase in operating costs.

The cost of airfare alone in 2019 was $1,650 for the southern part of Nigeria; $1,600 for the North and $1,550 for Maiduguri. But this year, it could be between $2,500 (1.04 million naira) and $3,000 (1.2 million naira).

Additionally, while N270,000 was traded to get a BTA of $850, around N353,600 would be needed this time around to get the same $850 at the official exchange rate of 416/$.

“Preparations Suspended”

In this pre-COVID era, hajj preparations would have reached a crescendo. NAHCON is said to have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with service providers in Saudi Arabia, entered into contracts with the air carriers while the states are also said to have moved forward with their arrangements.

However, at the time of filing this report, stakeholders claim that preparation is currently on hold as there has been no official communication from Saudi Arabia.

A source from NAHCON said, “We don’t know the arrangement yet. We have not signed any contract with any airline. We have not interviewed any carriers, we have not invited the NCAA to inspect and certify any airlines. We also haven’t signed any contract with GACA (General Civil Aviation Authority) in Arabia, we also haven’t signed overflight agreement with Sudan and other countries. So everything is on hold. »

Speaking to our correspondent, a former president of the Association of Hajj and Umrah Operators of Nigeria (AHUON), Alhaji Abdulfatah Abdulmojeed, said the Saudi authorities must speed up the plan.

He said: “Preparation is pending. Of course, people have heard that there will be a hajj this year, but what kind of hajj? So if someone is preparing, preparing for what? We did not operate hajj after COVID-19 or during COVID-19, we did not. So any planning you want to base yourself on before COVID-19, you’re wrong because a lot has changed whether it’s here or even there.

He, however, instructed NAHCON to maintain its first-come, first-served policy as it is clear that many people would not be able to carry out the exercise.

“But what I think NAHCON does, what I think is good, is to insist on the Hajj savings program so you know the people who are there. Whether they were able to meet the cost would be another issue. Those who cannot meet can wait,” he said.

Also speaking, the managing director of An-Noor Air Service, an Abuja-based tour operator, Alhaji Harun Ismail, said that in view of the participation of future pilgrims in the Umrah exercise, many people would be eager to perform the hajj.

However, he observed that the picture is still very hazy as to what would play out.

NAHCON spokeswoman Hajia Fatima Sanda Usara told our correspondent that the circumstances of the 2022 hajj are still unknown as the commission is awaiting the number of slots to be granted to Nigeria, however, said the first come principle , first served would be applied.

“Yes, we will operate on a first-come, first-served basis,” she said.

When asked if there would be interest on deposits made by pilgrims over the past two years, she replied that NAHCON does not hold pilgrims’ money.

“All I know is that when the components are listed, NAHCON will announce it to those who have a balance to top up to do so. NAHCON does not hold Pilgrims’ money,” he said. she declared.

The pilgrims intend to speak

Some of the future pilgrims who spoke to our correspondent said they were not unaware of current economic realities and as such were ready to make up the balance.

However, they said having left their money with the government since 2019, they should be considered first, to participate in the exercise.

An intentional pilgrim from Kwara State, Abdulwasiu Olaiya said he deposited 1.3 million naira to participate in the 2020 hajj.

“I know the situation is not the same. The value of the money we paid at that time is not the same at the moment and we were told the money was in the Treasury Single Account (TSA).

Another intentional pilgrim, Alhaja Bola Abdulrasheed, said she had deposited N1.4 million and would try to pay the balance once the Hajj rate was announced.

“Since we are doing this for the sake of Allah, I think nothing is too much to serve Almighty God. We pray that God will provide the balance when the time comes,” she said.

National pilgrim offices do not collect deposits

Our correspondent’s findings indicated that most state pilgrim welfare offices are reluctant to collect new deposits due to the backlog for 2019, 2020 and 2021.

The Lagos State Muslim Pilgrims Council has confirmed to our correspondent that it has stopped the sale of forms due to the backlog for 2020 and 2021.

Board Public Relations Officer Mr Taofeek Lawal said many people who made deposits for 2020 and 2021 did not get their money back, adding, “We are still waiting for slots from NAHCON.” .

In addition, the Kaduna State Pilgrims Council said it has also stopped selling forms to avoid a situation where those who have paid cannot perform the exercise while it is blatant that the State would not get up to 4000 slots usually allocated to the state. .

Board PRO Salisu Sani said: “We don’t have the actual allocation now. We are still waiting for NAHCON to receive the communication from Saudi Arabia. In 2019 we had 4000. In 2020 we had 4000 but we don’t have a slot in 2021 but for this year we don’t think we will have those 4000.

“We have stopped selling forms as we have a backlog of pilgrims for 2020, 2021 totaling over 3000. We don’t want to sell any forms as we don’t know how many slots to give us,” he said .

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