New Telegraph

Ndume Rejects Hike In Hajj Fees

…Urges FG, States to subsidise first-timers

Chief Whip of the Senate, Senator Ali Ndume, has rejected the arbitrarily increased rate for the 2024 Hajj by the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON).

In a statement he released in Abuja on Wednesday, Ndume described the increase as unfair and a deliberate plan to deny Nigerian Muslims, especially first timers the opportunity to participate in the exercise.

NAHCON had on Sunday, announced the new rate adjustment contained in a statement issued by the spokesperson of the commission, Fatima Sanda-Usara.

Explaining the reason for the hike, the commission stated that the current rate of N1,474.00 to a dollar makes it imperative to make the adjustment.

According to the statement, about 49,000 intending pilgrims under the public quota, had earlier paid the sum of N4.9 million to the commission when the naira was still at N897 to a dollar at the banks.

About 49,000 pilgrims who had earlier paid the old fees of N4.9 million each to the commission have been told to pay an additional N1.9 million each on or before 28 March, while new registration has been fixed at N8.5 million.

However, reacting to the development, Ndume said pilgrims who had earlier paid the old fees cannot be compelled to cough out almost N2 million, barely one week to the end of the registration.

The politician, while listing the five pillars of Islam, namely: Shahada, Salah, Zakat, Sawm, and Hajj, said, the sacred pilgrimage to Mecca is required of every Muslim at least once in their lifetime.

He called on President Bola Tinubu, to approve the payment of the extra cost as a subsidy to enable first-timers to attend this year’s Hajj to the Holy Land.

He also called on the respective State Governments to foot the additional cost for intending pilgrims who cannot pay the new fee set by NAHCON.

He said denying Muslims of their religious rights, especially first timers, is unfair and does not tell well of the country, at a time Nigerians struggled to raise the initial payment.

Ndume noted: “The sudden hike in the fees intending pilgrims are expected to pay by NAHCON is unfair. You cannot impose such on them. They had already paid for it ahead of time. If there are any changes, the burden should be on NAHCON and not on the intending pilgrims.

“Something urgent needs to be done about this. I call on President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to approve the payment of the extra fee as directed by NAHCON. This is the right thing to do in order to save the situation.

“I am also calling on States pilgrims are coming from to subsidise the fees of pilgrims, especially first timers. Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam and it is unfair to deny first-timers the right to perform this spiritual exercise, especially after they have already paid the old fee set by NAHCON.

“I do not think it is fair to ask them to pay almost N2 million again. Many of the pilgrims saved up the money for many years to enable them to participate in Hajj. You cannot deny such people the right to participate.

“I strongly believe that the right thing to do is to subsidise the fee and take the extra burden away from pilgrims, especially first-timers who deserve to participate in this year’s Hajj exercise. We need to help them.”

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