CSO cautions NAHCON against unrealistic promises, commends on 2024 fare

The Independent Hajj Reporters IHR has cautioned the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria NAHCON against “unrealistic promises” unnecessarily raising intending pilgrims’ hopes of a reduced fare until all options are considered and decisions taken.

In a statement by the National Coordinator, Ibrahim Muhammed, the independent Hajj reporting body said 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 al”.

IHR said “for example, the statement said the “cost of accommodation in Madinah dropped from 2,080 Saudi Riyals of 2023 to 1,665 Saudi Riyals this year. Similarly, cost of accommodation in Makkah was negotiated at 3000 Saudi Riyals against 3,500 Saudi Riyals for the previous year. Pilgrims of 2024 Hajj will pay 4,770 Saudi Riyals for Masha’ir package (VAT inclusive) against 5,393 Saudi Riyals 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”.

It said 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.  

It added that “in the same vein, contrary to age-long practice, the statement announcing the Hajj fare was silent on the amount of Basic Travel Allowance (BTA) that each pilgrim is expected to receive.

IHR then urgeg 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 Hajj and Umrah monitoring and reporting body however  commended the leadership of NAHCON for coming up with the most realistic Hajj fare for 2024 Hajj pilgrims.

NAHCON had on Saturday announced this year’s Hajj fare for intending Muslim pilgrims from Nigeria in which those from the southern part are expected to pay N4, 899, 000 while their counterparts from the north will pay N4,699,000 while 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% of Hajj expenses, was hitting the roof on a daily basis.

IHR 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.

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