The Independent Hajj Reporters, a Civil Society Organisation that monitors and reports on Hajj and Umrah activities, has commended the leadership of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria for coming up with the most realistic Hajj fare for the 2024 pilgrims.
The commission had on Saturday announced this year’s Hajj fare for intending pilgrims from Nigeria.
Those from the southern part are expected to pay N4,899,000, while their counterparts from the north will pay N4,699,000.
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The pilgrims from Yola and Maiduguri are to pay N4,676,000.
The announcement of the fare comes after NAHCON announced that it has succeeded in cutting down the cost of the Hajj through a downward negotiation of the prices of vital services such as flight tickets and accommodation.
The announcement also came at a time when the exchange rate of the US dollar, which constitutes about 85 percent of Hajj expenses, was hitting the roof on a daily basis.
The IHR in a statement Monday signed by its National Coordinator, Ibrahim Mohammed, said it is aware that “the average cost of Hajj this year across the globe is about $6000 and based on the prevailing exchange rate in Nigeria, the fare for Hajj would have translated to over N6 million”.
The group, therefore, said the highest fare of N4.899 million indicates that the shrewd negotiation tactics employed by NAHCON have saved Nigerian pilgrims around N1.5 million each.
The IHR, however, advised the Hajj Commission to refrain from unnecessarily raising intending pilgrims’ hopes of a reduced fare until all options are considered and decisions taken.
The Chairman of NAHCON, Mallam Jalal Ahmed Arabi, has repeatedly assured that the cost of the Hajj this year will not be more than the N4.5 million announced as a deposit for all pilgrims.
In the same vein, a recent statement by the Head of Public Affairs of the commission has given details of the reduction of prices of vital services ahead of the announcement of the fare, thereby raising the hope of the pilgrims that the fare may not be up to N4.5 million after all.
For example, the statement said the “cost of accommodation in Madinah dropped from SR 2,080 (Saudi Riyals) of 2023 to SR 1,665 this year.
“Similarly, cost of accommodation in Makkah was negotiated at SR 3000 against SR 3,500 for the previous year.
“Pilgrims of 2024 Hajj will pay SR 4,770 for Masha’ir package (VAT inclusive) against SR 5,393 paid by last year’s pilgrims.
“For airfare, the Commission was able to beat down the cost with a $138 discount from what was paid last year.”
This short analysis triggered the hope of a possible reduction in Hajj fare that will be below the initial N4.5 million promised by the NAHCON Chairman irrespective of foreign exchange rates.
Intending pilgrims might not be aware of arithmetic intricacies involved in hajj fare computations.
In the same vein, contrary to age-long practice, the statement announcing the Hajj fare was silent on the amount of Basic Travel Allowance that each pilgrim is expected to receive.
“We urge NAHCON to immediately inform all intending pilgrims how much they will be receiving as their BTA to aid their proper planning for the pilgrimage and also promote transparency and accountability,” the IHR said.