Chart: Hajj registration slips to record low on naira devaluation - BUSINESSDAY
by Folake Balogun
Hajj registration for the year 2024 is at the lowest level on record, with less than 50 percent registrations for the 95,000 available slots so far.
Latest data from the pilgrims welfare board show that only 16,000 have registered and at the high cost per pilgrim, the expectation is that some of those who have registered will pull out for inability to meet the financial burden made worse by the devaluation of the Naira.
The Naira devaluation has increased the hajj fare to N4.9 million for this year’s intending pilgrims from the initial minimum N4.5 million, according to data from the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON).
Fatima Usara, assistant director of Public Affairs of NAHCON said the low registration for Hajj is not peculiar to Nigeria. “Pakistan, Bangladesh and other countries had also announced their inability to fill the slots given to them by Saudi Arabia.
“We don’t pray any action will be taken by Saudi Arabia for Nigeria not filling its slots, but I don’t think there will be any negative impact,” she said.
She called on Nigerians to embrace the Hajj Savings Scheme as it reduces the impact on the naira volatility. “The savings scheme, the way it is designed, is going to be the best solution to everybody, both the pilgrims and managers, because once you have your savings, you don’t have to be agitating on what to pay.
“Once your money is in the bank, it’ll be invested and with time and enough profit, the profit will be used to substitute whatever amount the hajj will cost,” she said.
In 2015, 91,000 Nigerian pilgrims performed hajj; while 77,000 people went in 2016; 70,000 people in 2017; 55,000 people in 2018 and 68,000 people in 2019.
International hajj pilgrims were barred in 2020 and 2021 owing to the COVID-19 pandemic but in 2022, Nigeria utilised all the 43,000 seats allocated to it. The country also filled all the 95,000 slots given to it in 2023.
Sequel to an adjustment in the methodology for setting the exchange rate, the naira slid to a record low on January 30, 2024 exchanging at N1,413 against the dollar at the official window.
NAHCON said in a statement that intending pilgrims for this year’s hajj from southern states were required to pay N4.9 million; those from northern states, N4.7 million and those from Yola and Maiduguri, N4.7 million.
The final dateline, which the commission gave intending for final payments to enable the commission to transfer the money to the service providers before the February 25 deadline set by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, elapses today.
The NAHCON had allocated a total of 75,000 hajj slots to the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory and 20,000 to private tour operators.