Legal Nigeria

Hajj: Five states with N383bn debt budget N9bn for pilgrims


Five states; Kogi, Kebbi, Jigawa, Bauchi, and Kano states, have subsidised Hajj fares for 10,260 intending pilgrims for the 2024 exercise, with a combined sum of N9,120,997,990 billion.

The subsidy payments by the various states’ governments follow the announcement of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria, asking already registered pilgrims to pay an additional sum of N1.9m to balance up fares for the 2024 exercise, in accordance with current foreign exchange rates.

With the deadline for the payment given as March 28, the 48,414 pilgrims had only about 72 hours between the time of the announcement of the increase to either come up with the funds to secure their seats or apply for a refund of their money.

In the days that followed the expiration of the deadline, Kogi State Government under Governor Ahmed Ododo was the first to announce full payments of the sum for its 460 pilgrims.

The Kano State Governor, Abba Yusuf, also announced a N500,000 subsidy for each of its 2,906 pilgrims, followed by Governor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State, who announced a subsidy of N959,000 for the 2,290 pilgrims in the state, while Jigawa and Kebbi state governments also subsidised fares with N1m each for its 1,260 and 3,344 pilgrims respectively.

There are also reports that the Rivers State Government paid the total fare for the intending pilgrims, while the Osun State Government subsidised the fares with an undisclosed amount.

The subsidies given by the states are beside the N90bn subsidy allegedly given by the Federal Government to reduce the burden of the fares on the intending pilgrims.

Meanwhile, the states have a combined debt profile of N382.9bn, with Kogi indebted to the tune of N54.3bn, Kebbi N40.8bn, Jigawa N26.2bn, Bauchi N170.4bn, and Kano N101.3bn, as of June 2023, according to the official website of the Debt Management Office.

This, however, will not be the first time governors have sponsored citizens on pilgrimage.

Between 2022 and 2023, 13 state governors spent N14.84bn to sponsor about 4,771 persons on both Muslim and Christian pilgrimages.

A resident of the FCT told our correspondent on the condition of anonymity that “all in all, N5bn set aside for thousands of students and N90bn earmarked for pilgrim subsidy. This can only happen in a country where leaders have no regard for quality education but believe in presenting fake certificates”.

Another respondent, who simply identified himself as Michael, expressed annoyance with the development, stating, “It’s annoying to see government on this path. Why subsidise for the rich who can afford to go on pilgrimage, either Christian or Muslim? Instead subsidise the price of food and transportation, which is what mostly affect the masses”.

Meanwhile, the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria has disclosed that over 50,000 pilgrims have completed payments for the 2024 Hajj exercise under the government quota.

NAHCON made the disclosure in a statement by the Assistant Director, Public Affairs, Fatima Usara, on Saturday.

According to the statement, the official number of pilgrims now stood at 51,477 after the close of registration for the year’s exercise.

A breakdown of the numbers revealed the sub-total from Borno, Adamawa, Yola, Taraba and Yobe states as 5,492 pilgrims; northern sub-total, 36,261 pilgrims; Southern sub-total, 6,310 pilgrims, while the remaining 3,384 pilgrims were from the Hajj Savings Scheme and others, making the total 51,447.

Usara thanked the Federal Government for its “leading role” and “numerous sacrifices”, towards easing the burdens of the intending pilgrims, while also appreciating State governors and other stakeholders for providing support.

Source: The Punch