…intending pilgrims may pay over N8million this year
…FG yet to bulge on concessionary rate for pilgrims
By Ibidapo Balogun in Abuja
The high exchange of naira to the dollar is at present threatening Nigeria intending pilgrims’ full participation in this year’s hajj, which may take place sometime in June.
At the present rate of N1,520 to $1, intending pilgrims in the country may pay over N8 million to be able to perform the hajj, the fifth pillar of Islam.
Giving this development, WesternPost learnt the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) has approached the Federal Government for a concessionary rate for intending pilgrims.
But the government, which had in May last year approved the floating of the naira, with the aim of achieving official and unofficial exchange rates parity, is yet to bulge, according to impeccable sources.
“The situation at present with respect to 2024 hajj is bleak. We are appealing to the Federal Government to approve a reduction of the foreign exchange rate for 2024 intending pilgrims.
“Without that, only a few super rich can perform the hajj. Nigeria may not even utilise the 95,000 slots allocated to the country,” an Islamic scholar and stakeholder in the 2024 hajj told this newspaper.
In October 2023, the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria and the Forum of State Executive Secretaries of Pilgrims’ Welfare Boards, Agencies, and Commissions had agreed to peg the minimum deposit for the 2024 Hajj pilgrimage exercise at N4.5 million, saying the balance would be determined by the dollar exchange rate at the time of final hajj fare computation.
This year’s hajj is slated to hold between Friday June 14 and Wednesday June 19, 2024. Last year November, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia announced that the airlift of pilgrims for the 2024 hajj would begin on May 8.
Independent Hajj Reporters, a civil society organisation, had in December last year asked the FG to approve a reduction in the exchange rate for the 2024 pilgrims.
About 16% of intending pilgrims had by then registered for the exercise.
The National Coordinator of the organisation, Ibrahim Mohammed, had said the high exchange rate had affected the projected cost of hajj and prevented most intending pilgrims from registering to perform the hajj.
“Nigeria has 95,000 slots, which have been distributed in the ratio of 80:20 to state Pilgrims Welfare Boards and Private Hajj Operators.
“So far less than 16,000 pilgrims have registered, representing a mere 16% of the 2024 hajj slots,” he said.
At that time the IHR addressed the press conference, the Naira/dollar exchange rate was around N800 to $1. Today, February 1, 2024, the dollar exchange rate at the parallel market is N1,530.
On Monday, Reuters reported that Nigeria’s naira dropped to a record low against the dollar on the thinly traded official market on Friday, FMDQ Exchange data showed on Monday, as the currency swung widely to overshoot the unofficial parallel market rate.
The naira fell as low as N1,421 to the dollar, during trading on Friday, FMDQ data showed, compared with around N1,400 quoted on the parallel market. The currency later closed at N891.90 on the official market.
The latest fall occurred after Central Bank Governor Olayemi Cardoso last Wednesday said the bank was trying to improve liquidity in the foreign exchange market.