The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) has explained why it fixed different hajj fares for various states of the federation.
The Deputy Director, of Information and Publication of NAHCON, Mousa Ubandawaki, made the clarification in a statement on Saturday in Abuja.
He said for over two months, the commission had been working to ensure that the fare did not spiral out of the reach of average Nigerian Muslims, especially against the backdrop of the global economic crisis, bourgeoning inflation, and the depreciation of the naira against the dollar in the forex market.
He said that since the announcement of the final hajj fare for Nigerian pilgrims by the NAHCON boss, Zikrullah Hassan, a varied limited number of people have been asking questions about why the pilgrims from the states of the federation would have to pay different fares from the same country.
“Thank goodness that the commission was able to keep the price below N3 million against all these odds.
”At the inception of the screening of airlines for this year’s Hajj, the commission, through the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), was made aware that tickets for air travel, including the chartered flight that Hajj carriers charge, is influenced by the nautical mile the aircraft covers.
”It is the reason why the air ticket for Maiduguri and Yola departure is much lower than all the other Northern states as well as Southern Nigeria due to its proximity to Saudi Arabia.
He said that while pilgrims from those two airports spent less than four hours to Saudi Arabia, those from other regions of the North and Southern states spend five or more hours to the same destination.
According to him, the other reason is the price and location of accommodation in Makkah.
He said that it was a known fact that some States Pilgrims Welfare Boards, with their large contingent, needed a more expansive house or building to accommodate some of their pilgrims while some others may not need as much.
The deputy director stated that in sourcing for accommodation, the various states subscribed to accommodation that suited their needs and capacity.
He said that under the NAHCON’S Act and policy as a regulator, its job was to ensure that the states complied with the benchmark and the standard of accommodation was commensurate with the fare charged.
” This is to ensure compliance with the rule and philosophy, the commission was at the forefront of monitoring and supervising the negotiation process of the accommodation prices.
”More often than not, it rejected any price it considered skyrocketing, even when it has already been agreed upon by the state and the building owner.
”This is with the sole objective of making sure that the asking price is commensurate with the quality of the accommodation.
”Unfortunately, at this time, it is the sellers’ market, wherein demand is higher than the supply due to the ongoing urban redevelopment in Makkah which has seen so many buildings giving way to urban renewal.
”This is coupled with the lifting of the cap on allocation to all countries, thus, expanding the attendance from less than one million in 2022 to three million this year, thereby putting more pressure on the existing accommodation market.
Ubandawaki also said that the other reason why the fare was different from state to state had to do with the local charges by the different state pilgrims as administrative charges, uniforms and registration fees.
He explained that transportation shuttle for some state pilgrims who had to engage shuttle buses to transport their pilgrims to departure centres which more often than not were located in another state.
”These charges varied from state to state; for instance, pilgrims from Zamfara had to be transported to Sokoto for their flight. Same thing with Osun pilgrims who must be moved to Lagos for their transportation.
”As I stated earlier, the role of NAHCON in this is limited to fixing a cap on the amount that could be charged by states.
”Thus, while states charge as little as N10,000, some others charge as much as N20,000.
“It is these instances that were responsible for the different Hajj fare announced for each state. It has nothing to do with the political economy of the states.
Ubandawaki, who acknowledged the sacrifice made by prospective pilgrims to fulfill the religious obligation, promised that the commission would continue to do everything to ensure that pilgrims got value for money.
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