2024 Hajj: NAHCON increases fares, charges additional N1.918m

The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) on Sunday night announced an increase in the fares payable by intending Nigerian pilgrim for this year’s Hajj, saying each pilgrim will now have to pay a balance of N1,918,032.91 in accordance with the current foreign exchange rate.

The Hajj body, according to a press release signed by its Assistant Director, Public Affairs, Fatima Sanda Usara, made available to Tribune Online, stated that intending pilgrims have up to 11:59pm on March 28 to pay the balance as it would shut down its system by that time no other payment would be accommodated after.

With this development, NAHCON stated that any new registration for 2024 Hajj from Sunday, March 24 would attract the full sum of N8,225, 464.74 from the Adamawa/Borno axis.

From the North zone,fresh depositors, according to the commission, would pay N8, 254, 464.74, while fresh payments from the Southern zone would attract N8, 454, 464.74 as Hajj fare, adding that all categories are to pay within the same deadline.

Usara stated that the increment in fare for this year’s Hajj was necessitated by the harmonisation of the country’s foreign exchange rates.

According to her, “The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) appreciates the high level of understanding and concern that have been demonstrated to it publicly and privately over the 2024 Hajj fare dilemma it has plunged in.

“This show of support gives the Commission hope that stakeholders would leave no stone unturned for the success of the forthcoming Hajj exercise. At this juncture, the Commission finds it imperative to give clarity regarding the 2024 Hajj fare arrangements.

“It is widely acknowledged that Hajj preparation follows a strict timeline. As for the 2024 Hajj, the preparatory timeline released by Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah began earlier than usual and is expected to end before its normal timing. NAHCON endeavored to adhere to the schedule outlined by the Ministry.

“However, non to late remittances of Hajj fare by those concerned necessitated adjustments, resulting in two date shifts with the final being 12th of February 2024.

“Recall that as at 31st December 2023, Naira was still at N897:00 to a Dollar at the banks.These shifts unfortunately pushed the Hajj fare collection deadline to fall after harmonization of foreign exchange rates, presenting a new and significant challenge.

“What the harmonization meant in the Hajj fare equation was that in the face of global financial challenges, coupled with the new forex policy, Nigerian pilgrims would now be saddled with an unexpected increase in Hajj cost, despite having already paid the fixed fare of about N4.9 million, depending on the departure zone as approved by government.

“Federal Government saw wisdom in deliberately intervening on behalf of the Nigerian intending pilgrims through various strategies including persuading cost reductions.

“Unfortunately, the interventions could not cover the entire number that had met the final registration deadline. This had remained the Commission’s dilemma.

“To make matters worse, now about 50,000 pilgrims under the Public Quota have paid the hitherto announced fare of about N4.9million and their payments are currently under the custody of the Commission.”

She added that given the urgency of the situation, “NAHCON was forced to explore various options, including encouraging state governments and affluent individuals to intervene on behalf of their pilgrims”.

This window, she stated, still remained open, noting that this would compliment the intervention of the Federal Government that went the extra mile to support the Nigerian Muslim pilgrims in the discharge of their religious obligation.

“Commendably, government’s policy focus of bringing down the exchange rate has given the Hajj fare reduction a boost.

“The good news now is that with Naira having appreciated to N1,474.00 to a Dollar over the preceding week and after due consultation with stakeholders, coupled with NAHCON’s desire to ensure equitable spread of the Federal Government’s intervention to all the already registered pilgrims whose payments have been received, the Commission resolved that each pilgrim would now have to pay a balance of N1,918,032.91 in accordance with the current foreign exchange rate.

“Intending pilgrims that still wish to participate in the 2024 Hajj are by this release advised to proceed and pay a balance of N1,918,032.91 latest by 11:59 pm of 28th March 2024.

“The Commission will shut down its system by 29th March and no other payment would be accommodated after.

“Affected pilgrims are advised to visit their respective state pilgrims boards to confirm their status.”

Giving the breakdown of those already paid the initial N4.9m deposit, Usara informed that a total of 48,414 intending pilgrims from across the country made full payment so far.

According to here, the figures showed the seats fully paid for as follows: Adamawa (1,767); Bauchi (2,290); Bayelsa (13); Benue (87); Borno (1,780); Delta (40); Ebonyi (13); Edo (265); Ekiti (186) and Enugu (18).

Others are FCT (2,489); Gombe (1,262); Imo (98); Jigsaw (1,260); Kaduna (4,656); Kano (2,906); Katsina (2,654); Kebbi (3,344); Kogi (13); Kwara (3,100); Lagos (1,857); Nasarawa (1,866); Niger (3,200); Ogun (925); Ondo (491); Osun (1,548); Oyo (1,047); Plateau (1,345); Rivers (42); Sokoto (3,563); Taraba (1,000); Yobe (1,290); Zamfara (1,596) and the Armed Forces (403).

While expressing regret over the short notice NAHCON gave intending pilgrims to pay the balance, Usara stated that it became inevitable due to Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah’s stern warning to Nigeria regarding the delay in adhering to the Hajj arrangement framework.

She informed that NAHCON had before now pleaded for an extension which had been reluctantly granted and now the Ministry’s patience was wearing thin.

She, however, stated that, “those who wish to withdraw their registration for the 2024 Hajj are advised to formally request for refund from their states which will be treated with all seriousness.

“The next four days are crucial for stakeholders, especially those willing to intervene in support of their pilgrims, to take necessary actions and ensure smooth Hajj arrangements.”

She then assured that NAHCON remains committed to facilitating the pilgrimage experience for Nigerian Muslims and seeks cooperation from all parties involved.

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