The chairman of National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), Barrister Abdullahi Mukhtar Mohammed, has explained how the commission arrived at the 2017 Hajj fares.
There has been a public outcry that this year’s Hajj fares were too high considering the current economic condition in the country.
But the NAHCON boss said pilgrims could have paid up to N1.9 million against the N1.5 million for the seat if not for federal government’s magnanimity to provide a dollar exchange rate at N305.
He said the commission uses U.S. dollars for the payment of 98 per cent of the services that are being rendered to pilgrims in Saudi Arabia.
“In actual terms, the component that determines the hajj fare is the dollar; the official exchange rate last year was N197 to a dollar but this year, it is N305 and when you multiply it by 4,805, which is the total fare per pilgrim, it will give you about N1.5 million.
“The bottom line is the exchange rate, which NAHCON has no control over. Government considers the sensitivity and the importance of hajj and allows us even to enjoy the official exchange rate.
“If we are to use the prevailing bank rate of N368 to the dollar, the cost will be between N1.8 million and N1.9 million. We tried to explain these several times, using all available means and we granted series of press interviews and issued several press releases on the 2017 hajj fare,” he said.
He said the National Hajj Commission did not just fix cost of air ticket, accommodation, feeding and other services for the pilgrims, stressing that each component that made up the fare was arrived at after exhaustive discussions between NAHCON’s team and service providers.
“We also published breakdown of the fare on the official website of the commission and released to the public, explaining that we arrived at each component through consensus with stakeholders like the state pilgrims welfare boards and commissions and with relevant government agencies involved in regulating hajj components.
“The cost of air ticket was reached after negotiations between airlines and the commission’s technical team, which comprised representatives from aviation agencies and state pilgrims welfare boards and agencies,” he said.
Debunking tour operator’s claims on cheaper rates
The NAHCON boss also described as false the claims by chairman of HASHA Travel and Tour, Baba Mohammed, that the agency could airlift pilgrims for the Hajj exercise at N1.25 million with $500 stipend. The fare however does not include feeding.
Speaking on BBC Hausa programme, Ra’ayi Riga Ne, the chairman of NAHCON said the claim by the agency could not be true.
“We had a meeting with the company that advertised N1.25 million package. The company has no contract document with Ethiopian Airline. The company has no contract agreement in Makkah or Madinah. I spoke with Ethiopian airline, they said they have not offered to anybody the 2017 Hajj fare ticket,” he said.