THE National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) remains tight-lipped on the official Hajj fare for 2024, leaving intending pilgrims in a state of anxious limbo.
To hazard a guess, the primary reason for this delay may not be unconnected to ongoing uncertainty surrounding the exchange rate of the Naira to the Dollar.
Traditionally, the components of the Hajj package, including flights, accommodation, and feeding, are denominated in US Dollars. This means that fluctuations in the Naira’s value directly impacts the final cost borne by Nigerian pilgrims.
In previous years, concessionary rates were offered to both Muslim and Christian pilgrims traveling for Hajj or religious visits to Israel. The NAHCON Chairman had variously declared that Hajj fare will not exceed the N4.5m intending pilgrims were advised to pay perhaps believing the previous situation will still hold. Down the line however, NAHCON seems unable to finalize the Hajj fare.
In December 2023, NAHCON initially planned to close the registration window for intending pilgrims late that year. However, the Commission’s inability to calculate the cost of services in Saudi Arabia and air fare made it impossible to declare the total fare expected for 2024 Hajj.
This forced the commission to extend the deadline to the end of January. Now with this expiration yesterday, Nigerian intending pilgrims, like l, awaited the final announcement with exacerbated breath yesterday 31st January only for one of the Commission’s media officers to narrate the successes achieved during the pre-Hajj visit. This is either a Public Relations blunder or a high indicator that the calculations are not adding up.
Despite this extension that expired yesterday, many potential pilgrims remain unable to balance their payments without knowing the final cost of the Hajj which we had expected before the end of this deadline. If the commission had gotten the impressive discounts, it published yesterday, why not inform the public of the 2024 final fare for intending pilgrims to rest their minds and know where they belong?
Unless of course if it is as a result of the Dollar uncertainty.
Those within the Hajj industry can easily decipher that the commission is grappling with a difficult decision given the many promises made by the new Chairman, Malam Jalal Ahmad Arabi to close down registration early no matter the number of pilgrims that registered in order to give room for early planning. We are as eager to know the Hajj fare even though we commend NAHCON for attaining discount on several services.
As a concerned citizen that had been bombarded with announcements on the need to pay up early to give room for NAHCON to conclude plans early, further delays could jeopardize our Hajj arrangement: we the intending Nigerian pilgrims and maybe for NAHCON too by extension. I therefore in this capacity call on the government to intervene swiftly, else the arrangement for this year’s Hajj from Nigeria is being threatened.
Abdullahi, writes from C5 Shika Road, Tudun Wada, Kaduna.