Despite the public outcry on the increase to this year’s Hajj fare by the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria, NAHCON, intending pilgrims could have been asked to pay up to N2 million for the low-level seat, the commission’s Director-General, Abdullahi Muhammad, said.
Mr Muhammad said government’s magnanimity to provide a dollar exchange at official rate of N305 has helped in pegging the low-level seat at N1.5 million, as against the possible N1.8 or N2 million with exchange at N390 unofficial rate.
Speaking with BBC Hausa Service on Thursday, Mr Muhammad said Hajj fare this year should have been lower than what was paid last year, but the dollar exchange increase completely turned the tide.
“People need to know that by government’s approval to provide pilgrims with a dollar at N305 official rate is another respite for them. Had it been pilgrims were asked to get it at the unofficial rate of N380-N390, Hajj fare could have reached N1.8 million or N2 million,” he said.
He said however, the cost of other variables to the annual Hajj, like accommodation and airlines have all dropped compared to what was paid last year.
“The Hajj fare in Nigeria is relative to each state because there no longer a separate accommodation for any nation and that reduces the accommodation fee. Also, there has been a drop in the fees for airlines; cumulatively, the expense ought to have reduced.
“But the increase was a result of the dollar exchange hike. Last year, pilgrims got dollar at N197 official rate. Now even the official rate is N305. What I want people to understand is that had it been the dollar exchange remains as at last year’s rate, pilgrims could have paid less than what they paid last year,” he said.
On the Hajj travel package pegged at the flat rate of $800, also known as general Basic Travel Allowance, BTA, Mr Muhammad said they arrived at the flat rate decision to all the states because of the consistent complaints by pilgrims of being short-changed by their states’ pilgrim officials.
He said pilgrims complain that they were paid a package of a low-level seat even when they paid for the package of the high-level one, which necessitated the uniform $800 BTA for this year.