States spend over N130billion on Hajj as hunger, recession plough Indigenes

By Editor on 02/09/2017

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At least N136.5bn has been spent on Hajj in 2017 by state governments and individuals despite the current recession in the country, investigation has revealed.

According to the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria, no fewer than 91,000 Nigerians had arrived in Saudi Arabia out of the over 1.7 million foreign pilgrims in the country to perform this year’s Hajj. Meanwhile, the average Hajj fare approved by NAHCON to states for each traveller is N1.5m.

For example, information made available by NAHCON showing the approved 2017 Hajj seats and fares per state disclosed the package for travellers from Nasarawa State as N1,544,659.85; Niger, N1,525,483.30; Ondo, N1,485,096.07; Katsina, N1,498,502.70; Bauchi, N1,523,122.41; Plateau, N1,529,036.80; Sokoto, N1,521,461.65; and Kwara, N1,501,571.27, among others.

Therefore, at an average fare of N1.5m, 91,000 Nigerians would have spent a minimum of N136.5bn on the exercise, with part of it coming from public purse provided by state governments.

Although going on Hajj at least once in a lifetime is one of the five pillars of Islam, the Quran described it as a religious obligation that is meant for the faithful who can afford it. Meanwhile, visiting Jerusalem for pilgrimage is not an obligation for Christians. However, state governments have been sponsoring people to Mecca and Jerusalem for pilgrimage and Saturday PUNCH has information that Katsina, Bauchi, Plateau and Sokoto states had sponsored people on pilgrimage this year.

For instance, Governor Aminu Masari of Katsina State recently disclosed that his administration had been subsidising Hajj exercise for Muslims with N1bn annually.

Masari, while inaugurating an 18-member board for the Katsina State Pilgrims’ Welfare Board, had said no amount spent on religious activities could be considered as too much and described pilgrimage to Mecca as “neither a picnic nor a holiday, but an act of worship, as enshrined in the Holy Quran and the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad.”

Similarly, the Bauchi State Government spent over N262,650,000 as subsidy on the state’s Muslim pilgrims to this year’s Hajj.

Governor Mohammed Abubakar had disclosed this while delivering his farewell address to 3,090 pilgrims, where he boasted that the state could afford the sponsorship despite the economic recession.

“Despite the economic hardship situation, this administration has continued to fund the operation of the state Pilgrims Welfare Board, both at home and at the holy land, so as to guarantee your comfort and satisfaction.

“We have also subsidised the cost of your accommodation in Mecca, upon which the government had to pay at least the sum of 850 Saudi Riyals (N85,000) for each of you so that you will be accommodated in a beautiful edifice close to the Haram,” Abubakar had said.

Also this year, the Plateau State Government went back on its 2015 decision to no longer sponsor both Muslims and Christians on pilgrimage due to the dwindling economic fortune of the state.

It was reported that the state government had sponsored 616 Muslims for the 2017 Hajj, with the state governor, Simon Lalong, saying at a farewell ceremony for the pilgrims from the state that the state government was willing to make the “sacrifice as a result of the relevance of holy pilgrimage to the citizens of the state.”

The Sokoto State Government had spent N91m to sponsor 90 Islamic clerics to the lesser Hajj in June.

The state Commissioner for Religious Affairs, Alhaji Mani Katami, had also announced that each of the benefiting clerics was entitled to a Basic Travelling Allowance of N250,000.

State governments’ sponsorship of pilgrimage has been going on for long. Last year, the Executive Secretary, Taraba State Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Board, Alhaji Umar Leme, said the state government had released N288.5m to sponsor about 166 persons on Hajj.

In 2014, the Borno State Government said it had spent about N500m to secure good accommodation and welfare for 2,645 pilgrims to Mecca, and that 300 Saudi Riyals (N30,000) were given to each of them to enable them to slaughter rams during Hajj.

The Niger State Government in 2013 said it had spent about N5.1bn in the previous six years to subsidise Muslim and Christian pilgrimages to Mecca and Jerusalem respectively.

In his defence of the expenditure, the then governor of the state, Babangida Aliyu, had described the sponsorship as the only avenue through which some people would benefit from the government.

“They do not benefit from electricity, housing, roads and other infrastructure; they only benefit directly from the government through subsidy on pilgrimage,’’ he had said.

It was also learnt that even the Federal Government in 2016 subsidised the cost of pilgrimage for 65,167 persons with a concession of N121.9 for a maximum of $1,000 per person. The pilgrims enjoyed a concessionary rate of N197 to a dollar as the official exchange rate was N318.9 to a dollar.


Source Punch

Posted on September, 2 2017

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