By Uche Amunike
The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) has stated that, owing to over 50% increase made from the N1m paid by pilgrims in 2019 before the coronavirus scourge that halted Hajj activities, Nigerian pilgrims may pay up to N2.5m each, to participate in the 2022 Hajj.
Speaking at the Executive meeting of the state pilgrim’s board in preparation for the 2022 Hajj, the National Hajj Commission Chairman, Alhaji Ziklurah Hassan indicated that the reason for the increase was due to a rise in foreign exchange rate, rise in inflation by almost 10%, as well as increase in Value Added Tax (VAT) from 5 to 15% by Saudi authorities, adding that the commission did not have control over such factors.
Hear him: ‘The projection is on the increase because as of 2019, the exchange rate for Hajj was N306 but now it will be at N410 to a dollar. We all know that Hajj is 97 per cent by foreign exchange for food airlines and others’.
‘In addition, Saudi Arabia has increased their VAT from five to 15 per cent. We will try our best to mitigate whatever hardship this would cost the pilgrims but I am sure for many people who had wished two or three years to go to the holy land, this won’t be sacrifice too many’, Hassan concluded.
He explained that 43,008 slots were given to Nigeria. Out of these slots, 33,976 would be allocated to states, while 9,032 slots would go to private tour operators.
While explaining how it was shared, Hassan stated that Kaduna and Sokoto received the highest allocation of 2,491 and 2,404 respectively while states like Bayelsa, Rivers and lmo got zero allocation.
On clearing the air on why these states were not given any slot, the National Hajj Commission boss explained that they did not meet the requirements to be licensed to organize Hajj.
His words: ‘The tour operators that are managing Hajj and Umrah are licensed by the commission. So equally are all states licensed. So those states without allocation are those who have not met the requirements to be licensed and such they can’t perform. When a state is not licensed, it is not permitted for that state to actually organize Hajj or Umrah. For Muslims who are in that state and are desirous to perform Hajj, the commission would take care of that’.
As for the payments already made, he stressed that selection would be made on a first-come first-serve basis with a sharing formula of 40% for the regular Hajj and 60% of those on Hajj Savings Scheme.
He also noted the need for intending pilgrims to be fully vaccinated with a booster shot adding that a PCR test was also mandatory.
A total of 1537 slots were however allocated to the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.
The age limit set by Saudi Arabia for pilgrims is pegged at Under-65, while the approximate dates for the 2022 Hajj are 7-12 July.