The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) has absolved the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) from the allegation of indiscriminate hike in 2017 hajj fares, tracing it to high exchange rates.
Director, MURIC, Professor Ishaq Akintola, in a statement said the suspicion, distrust and allegations leveled at NAHCON are equally products of misinformation.
This year's hajj fare of N1.5 million announced by the NAHCON has been generating ripples. The prospective pilgrims have wondered why the fare is higher than that of 2016, and therefore called for a reduction.
Akintola: "Our investigations reveal that 98 per cent of the services rendered by NAHCON in Saudi Arabia are determined in US dollars. Although 2016 official exchange rate was N197, recession and the attendant fall of the naira forced 2017 official exchange rate to N305. Whereas a pilgrim needed just $4,003 in 2016, his need in 2017 has risen to $4,805.
"Now, if we multiply $4,805 by N305, what we will get is N1,465,525 (approximately N1.5m). This is why NAHCON has pegged the 2017 hajj fare at N1.5 million. Further investigation has also revealed that air ticket from the North is $1,600 while that of the South is $1,700. Furthermore, the cost of accommodation in Makkah is $933 while that of Madina is $430. These are easily verifiable," he said.
Akintola however urged the Federal Government to hands off hajj affairs in Nigeria. "Government must allow the Muslim Ummah to determine its own destiny. If Muslims are to succeed in becoming owners of Islamic schools, universities, hospitals, libraries, halal hotels and other halal investments, every intending pilgrim must be compelled to pay a particular amount to the coffers of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) before they leave for hajj," he said.