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Lagos 2022 intending Hajj pilgrims take to streets over fee hike

By Esther Kalu

In a bid to express their dissatisfaction towards the increment of 2022 Hajj fees from N1.3 million to N2.6 million, Lagos intending pilgrims have taken their grievances to the streets, protesting against the new fare, which they described as unbearable considering the current economic hardship across the country.

In their unanimous voice, they lamented that the unexpected increase in Hajj fare betrayed their expectations and that the time allocated for them to balance up the initial N1.3 million payment did not help matters either.

They pleaded with the state government to intervene and find possible ways to cut down the fee which might not allow most of them who had longed for the experience and had to pay through their nose for years to participate in the exercise.

According to them, it was painful to realize that their hopes of participating in Hajj rites this year would be dashed as a result of the increment and that they have looked forward to this year to visit the holy city.

One of the protesters, who spoke under anonymity, during the demonstration at the Governor’s office in Ikeja, on Monday, lamented that it took her five years to raise the initial payment and that asking her to pay about the same amount in two months was unfair and impossible.

“It took me five years to raise the initial Hajj fee through consistent contributions and now, they say we should pay the same amount to balance up. it is unfair.” she said.

Meanwhile, reacting to the claims raised by the protesters, the Lagos State Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Board blamed the Hajj hike on foreign exchange rate as well as the 10% increase in value added tax by the Saudi Arabia authorities and that there was nothing they could do because Hajj operations under the control of the Government of Saudi Arabia is dollar based.

The Assistant Director, Public Affairs, Taofeek Lawal, through a statement, stated that the board has no alternative than to act as directed by its regulator in order to make the exercise seamless for intending pilgrims.

It would be recall that Lagos State was allocated 1,562 slots while those above 65 years have been excluded in line with Saudi Arabian Government’s directive.

According to the statement: “It is important to note that the increment is totally beyond the control of the Federal or State Governments because Hajj operations which is under the control of the Government of Saudi Arabia is dollar based. The dollar which was exchanged for N306 to one naira in 2019 has now risen to N419 (official rate) in 2022.

“In a meeting with the Chief Executives of States Pilgrims Welfare Boards, Agencies and Commissions in Abuja last Thursday, the NAHCON Chairman/CEO, Alh. Zikhirullah Kunle Hazzan said that the Saudi Arabian authority had increased its Value Added Tax (VAT) from five percent to 15 percent and coupled with the high exchange rate of dollars, everything is bound to be affected.

“Equally important to add is that the new increment of N1,340,000.00 in addition to the N1.3 million initially deposited by our intending pilgrims covers airline tickets (to and fro Saudi Arabia), hotel accommodation, visa procurement, local transportation, PCR test both in Nigeria and Saudi Arabia, amongst others.

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