Friday, January 21, 2022

COVID-19: Hajj, Umrah operators lose billions of naira, seek CBN intervention

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The Association of Hajj and Umrah Operators of Nigeria, AHUON, on Tuesday, have sought the intervention of Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, over losses suffered due to suspension of Umrah services by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, following Coronavirus pandemic.

DAILY NIGERIAN reports that the Saudi authorities had suspended the issuance of Umrah visas and international flight services as a preventive measure against the spread of the deadly virus in the kingdom.

Speaking during an interactive session with members of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, in Kano on Tuesday, the AHUON Zonal Chairman, Abdullaziz Kafinsoli, appealed to the Federal Government to capture its members in the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN’s N50billion COVID-19 palliatives.

Recall that the CBN had set aside N50 billion to be disbursed through the Nigerian Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending, NIRSAL, to support business owners such as hoteliers, airliners, service providers, among others.

Citing the recent suspension of flights into Saudi Arabia by Saudi authorities which caused them to lose millions of US dollars, the chairman said his members are entitled to partake in the CBN incentive considering the huge amount of revenue they generate to the Federal Government.

“We have gone through the CBN N50 billion incentive offer, but we are not all that optimistic of benefitting from it because we have not been consulted.

“The Federal Government should consider our members because we are the worse hit in this COVID-19 pandemic.

“When policies like this are made, our members should be captured considering the amount of turnover and revenue we generate for the Federal Government through our business,” Mr Kafinsoli stated.

The chairman, however, congratulated the new leadership of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria, NAHCON, promising that the association are ever ready to work hand-in-hand with the commission for smooth pilgrimage operations.

“We thank God that the new leadership of NAHCON came at a time when we have all these challenges; and they have agreed to work with us. We are ready to give them maximum support and cooperation.

“Already, we have held meetings with NAHCON and we have seen new faces that come with new ideas, and we are ready to work with them,” he said.

Mr Kafinsoli, however, urged pilgrims who had already registered before the suspension of the Hajj exercise not to panic as measures were already in place to ensure that their money is adequately protected.

“We are assuring those who have already booked flights with our members that they are not going to lose their money.

“Once the suspension is lifted, they will make use of their tickets. We are working round the clock to ensure that they will be duly compensated and we are happy that the Saudi authorities are cooperating with us in this regard,” he added.

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