This is the official blog of the Nigeria-based Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), a human rights organization which promotes, protects and projects the rights of Muslims. This group condemns terrorism and all acts of violence. Its motto is 'Dialogue, Not Violence'
Wednesday, June 14, 2017
HAJJ FARE HIKE: DON’T BLAME NAHCON
HAJJ FARE HIKE: DON’T BLAME NAHCON
This year’s hajj fare of N1.5
million announced by the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) has been
generating ripples. Prospective pilgrims have wondered why the fare is higher
than that of 2016. They have therefore called for a reduction. Other
stakeholders have called on the Federal Government (FG) to subsidise hajj fare.
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) considers the ensuing controversy unnecessary,
uncalled for and a sheer waste of saliva and misuse of calories. The suspicion,
distrust and allegations leveled at NAHCON are equally products of
reveal that 98% 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.
MURIC opposes further subsidy for hajj this year for three
reasons. Firstly, FG has already subsidized 2017 hajj because the official
exchange rate is N368 whereas FG allowed N305. Pilgrims would have had to pay N1,768,240
(approximately N1.8m) at the prevailing bank rate of N368 per dollar if FG had
not subsidized at all.
Secondly, Nigeria is in recession and Nigerian Muslims must
be prepared to make sacrifices as government cannot afford to play the prodigal
son at a time like this. About N34b would be needed to subsidise if pilgrims
were to enjoy the 2016 rate of N197 per dollar but this cannot be rationalized in
the face of the current recession.
Thirdly, every special concession granted to Muslims is
most likely to become a subject of controversy as Christian groups are most
likely to challenge FG for taking such an action. We must take the diverse
character of our country into consideration at all times.
It is clear from the
above details that it is highly naïve to blame NAHCON for the increase in hajj
fare. Neither can FG or the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) be blamed. The major
correlate which determines hajj fare is the exchange rate.
The options before us,
therefore, are: one, to ask the National Assembly (NASS) to wade in and lobby
for more concession; two, to appeal to Acting President Yemi Osinbajo to
intervene executively and secure a reduction for Muslim pilgrims and, three, to
enlighten prospective Muslim pilgrims and face the reality. The state of the
nation’s economy has automatically knocked off the first two options and unless
we want to rely on primordial sentiments, option number three seems the best in
the present circumstance.
MURIC is therefore constrained to drum the doctrine of manistata‘a
ilayhis-sabiil into the medulla oblongata of 2017 intending pilgrims in
particular and all Muslim faithfuls in general (manistata‘a ilayhis-sabiil means
hajj is for Muslims who have the means). This means hajj is not mandatory on
those who do not have the money to perform it but it becomes compulsory once a
Muslim has the means. But does a Muslim who has the money to perform hajj need
government’s subsidy or sponsorship? The answer is capital ‘NO’.
A radical interpretation of the doctrine of manistata‘a
ilayhis-sabiil will render borrowing from other sources to perform hajj or
compelling government to subsidise the cost of hajj absolutely unnecessary. However,
subsidies and outright sponsorship of citizens on hajj may be rationalized in
an Islamic Republic but Nigeria is not one.
Nigeria has always
been among countries with the largest number of pilgrims in Saudi Arabia every
year. Of more than 2 million Muslims from 183 countries who performed hajj in
2016, Nigeria had 76,000. But how many out of this number contribute anything
to the growth, development and welfare of the Ummah back home?
That is why we want FG
to hands off hajj affairs in Nigeria. FG 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. Those going for ‘Umrah should pay something
MURIC reiterates the need for FG and state governments to
stop sponsoring Muslims on hajj. It is counterproductive because it has been
abused severally. Politicians have hijacked it. They sponsor political thugs,
hoodlums, riffraffs, mistresses and prostitutes who may not even be Muslims.
This category of ‘pilgrims’ become recalcitrant in Saudi Arabia. Some members
of the National Assembly also abuse it by seizing those priviledges meant for
hajj officials. This practice should cease forthwith as MURIC is poised to
monitor the procedure with the aim of identifying NASS members who engage in
this immodest behavior. Enough is enough.
As we round up, we reaffirm
our belief that it is time to correct misconceptions about hajj among Muslims. Hajj
is once in a lifetime but we ignore this principle and rush to Saudi Arabia
almost every year. ‘Umrah (lesser hajj) is not compulsory but we force it on
ourselves as an annual ritual. We must open a new leaf. Gone are the days when
anything goes. We must do what is right at all times.
Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)