Recently, the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria, NAHCON, reviewed downward the Hajj fare for the 2019 pilgrimage, a development that elicited wide-ranging commendations from the intending pilgrims, stakeholders and many Nigerians.
Given reasons for the downward review, the Head, Public Affairs of NAHCON, Fatima Sanda-Usara, in a statement during the weekend, stated that the reduction was occasioned by the reclassification of land transportation routes to be used by Nigerian pilgrims in the holy land, and the reduction of their charges by the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah.
The NAHCON, consequently, directed all state pilgrims’ welfare boards, agencies to immediately effect the refund of 620 Saudi Riyals equivalent to N51, 170.45 to all intending pilgrims who have already completed payment of N1.5million earlier announced fare.
“We arrived at the decision after a meeting with various state Executive Secretaries across the 36 states and FCT Abuja.
“This was a result of a downward review of reclassification of land transportation routes, as well as reduction of their rates on the portal of Kingdom of Saudi Arabian Ministry of Hajj and Umrah on transportation routes that would be used by Nigeria,” Mrs Sanda-Usara said.
The breakdown of the 2019 Hajj fare shows that each pilgrim that paid N1.5 million will collect Basic Travels Allowances, BTA, 800 US Dollars, which is an equivalent of N288, 400, each pilgrim will be fed twice for 35 days which costs about N85, 000, two pairs of suitcases that cost N16, 000 and a set of uniform that cost N4, 000.
Also, the remaining cost of the Hajj package covers pilgrims’ accommodation in Makkah for 35 days, Madina 7 to 8 days, return air ticket, transportation within Saudi Arabia which has been increased by 70 per cent by the authorities in the Holy Land as well as hajj services in Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifa.
According to the commission, that return air ticket that used to cost 1,750 US Dollar has now been bargained downward to 1,550 US dollars, the pilgrims’ accommodation in Madina has also been brought down by 50 dollars.
From the foregoing, the reduction of Hajj fare, and the extension of intending pilgrims’ payment deadline to July 15, as well as NAHCON’s effort on making Hajj Operation smoother is a precedent towards successful Hajj operation.
It was also observed that the commission has put all relevant machinery in place for the 2019 Hajj operation: from the airlift to accommodation, feeding, medical and other welfare of the intending pilgrims.
A source at the NAHCON office confident in this reporter the commission is recording an influx of intending pilgrims to register for this year’s exercise, apparently, due to the extension of the registration deadline and the reduction in the Hajj fare.
One of the intending pilgrims, who also spoke with this reporter on condition of anonymity, asserted that this year’s level of coordination, as well as the downward review of the fare, has made him trust the country’s pilgrims commission for a smooth exercise.
According to the source, who is not a first-timer as a pilgrim, the innovations brought by NAHCON, right from the Visa processing, is a precursor to a hitch-free exercise.
Similarly, apparently thrilled by the downward review of 2019 Hajj fare, the leadership of the National Assembly recently reposed their confidence in the NAHCON, especially under the stewardship of Bar. Abdullahi Muktar as the Chairman.
Recall that during the 2019 Hajj stakeholders’ meeting and award presentation in Abuja, Senate President Ahmed Lawan and Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila, expressed their delight over the development, saying that the reduction of the Hajj fare will endear Nigerian pilgrims to the government and the commission.
“Hajj stakeholders, such as selected airlines and other service providers must ensure that efficient services are rendered to the pilgrims,” Mr Lawan assured.
The Senate president, however, admonished Nigerian pilgrims to be good ambassadors of the country while in Saudi Arabia.
He also appealed to them to use the Hajj exercise to pray for the unity, peace and prosperity of the country.
Speaking with DAILY NIGERIAN correspondent, a stakeholder in the Hajj operations, who is also the National Coordinator, Independent Hajj Reporters, Ibrahim Muhammed, said the reduction shows that Nigerian Hajj administrators could navigate difficult terrain to secure financial relief for Nigeria pilgrims.
“This has also demystified the old cliché in Nigeria that ‘whatever goes up never come down”. The 2019 hajj fare goes up and it was forced down.
“The amount may not be much but it has boosted the confidence of the pilgrims in the system,” Mr Muhammad stated.
He, however, called on hajj administrators not to relax in ensuring that service providers adhere to their contractual obligation to pilgrims.