The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria, NAHCON has said decisions taken by President Muhammadu Buhari and the reforms introduced by the commission has saved Nigerian pilgrims over N83 billion during Hajj operations in the last three to four years.
This was revealed by the Head of Public Affairs at NAHCON, Fatima Usara, during an interactive session with journalists at the commission’s head office in Abuja recently.
Mrs Usara said the decision by Mr Buhari to abolish the practice of dollar concession alone saved Nigeria N75 billion in 2017.
The practice in the past was for presidents to give concessionary exchange rates for pilgrims going to Hajj.
For instance, while the official exchange rate of $1 to the naira was N190 in 2016, President Goodluck Jonathan had earlier granted a concession which reduced the exchange rate to N160 for $1, the government therefore, subsidised each dollar with N30.
Mrs Usara said Mr Buhari abolished the practice and also granted NAHCON approval to fix a flat BTA for all pilgrims.
“Because of the concession, and because there were three types of Hajj seats then, which were minimum, medium and maximum, often differentiated by BTA, one person will pay for say 200 persons and then connived with a financial institution to collect the subsidised BTA and then give the pilgrims pittance. It therefore, became illegal business venture for some people,” she said.
She also said the management of NAHCON led by Abdullahi Mohammed came into office at about the same time with Mr Buhari in 2015 and one of the first decisions he took after meeting with the NAHCON chairman was to abolish the practice of Federal Government’s sponsorship of a delegation to hajj annually.
She said the decision alone saved the government N1.6 billion annually.
Also, she said NAHCON in 2017 decided to abolish the use of middlemen in securing accommodation for Nigerian pilgrims in Saudi Arabia.
Instead, she said the commission deals directly with home owners which saved the country over $14 million.
In the same vein, the NAHCON spokesperson said another reform introduced in 2017 regarding Hadaya (sacrificial animal) has saved pilgrims N1.6 billion.
She said the reform sees the introduction of Jaiz Bank to work in conjunction with Islamic Development Bank to collect monies meant for the purchase of sacrificial animals from the pilgrims and issue them coupons.