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‘We paid for fares at N897 to a dollar’: NGO Calls on Tinubu to Save 2024 Hajj from Collapse

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ABUJA, Nigeria — A civil society organization focused on Hajj affairs, Independent Hajj Reporters (IHR), has urgently called on President Bola Tinubu to intervene and prevent the potential collapse of the 2024 Hajj preparations for Nigerian pilgrims.

Following the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria’s (NAHCON) announcement of a significant fare increase for the upcoming pilgrimage, there is a stark warning that this year could see the lowest number of Nigerian participants ever, or even a complete absence of Nigerian pilgrims at Hajj.

NAHCON initially set the fare for the 2024 Hajj at N4.9 million per pilgrim, based on an exchange rate of N897 to a dollar in December 2023.

However, due to missed deadlines for remitting operational funds to Saudi authorities—a result of awaiting promised federal government intervention for lower forex rates—the fare has now been increased.

Intending pilgrims are required to pay an additional N1.918 million by March 28, an adjustment that many may find insurmountable.

The call for government intervention comes amid concerns that over 90% of those who managed the initial deposit cannot afford the sudden increase.

With the deadline for visa processing by Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah looming on April 29, and without visas, participation in Hajj is impossible, the situation has become dire.

The logistics of managing the increased fare within the given timeframe pose significant challenges.

State Muslim Pilgrims’ Welfare Boards would need time to notify pilgrims of the increase, and for many, particularly the over 65% who are farmers, raising the additional funds could take weeks.

Furthermore, the process of transferring funds through the Central Bank of Nigeria to NAHCON’s account in Saudi Arabia adds additional layers of complexity and time.

With the visa processing window closing in 35 days and the commencement of pilgrim airlift in 45 days, the CSO has stressed the importance of immediate presidential action to avoid additional charges for the pilgrims.

Without this, Nigeria risks not only sending a fraction of its 95,000 pilgrim allocation but also the heartbreaking possibility of many missing out on this crucial religious obligation.

The Independent Hajj Reporters (IHR) have reiterated their calls for decisive action, reflecting on their previous alarms raised about the 2024 Hajj preparations.

From early alerts about the start of registration to pleas for concessionary exchange rates, the IHR has been proactive in highlighting potential pitfalls in the pilgrimage process.

Given the changes to Hajj operations announced by the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, which impact service provider selection, payment schedules, and earlier visa issuance, the call for emergency intervention is more pressing than ever.

The CSO and IHR are advocating on behalf of Nigerian Muslims to ensure that those who have made the initial deposit are not deprived of fulfilling their religious duties.

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