By Fatima Sanda Usara
Hajj 2022, the first in two years is a Hajj with many peculiarities. Ordinarily, Hajj arrangements would have reached a climax in Nigeria around this time, only waiting for appropriate stages of execution.
By now, even intending pilgrims would have bidden their distant relatives farewell as it is only seven days before the expected landing of the first Hajj flight into Saudi Arabia, according to GACA (General authority for Civil Aviation) calendar. The situation is not the same this year, and a couple of countries share this dilemma with Nigeria.
From Islamabad, the report on departure date is unclear. An earlier account indicated that the Hajj schedule is likely to be delayed. According to Pakistan’s news platform ARY news, Hajj pilgrims are completely unaware of the expected expenditures, as well as uninformed of other arrangements usually released 30 days prior to the commencement of the flight operations. In a contrary development however, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) on Tuesday, 24th May, revealed that it was ready to commence Hajj operations from May 31 and to continue till August 13, within a total of 297 flights. This information was contained in Pakistan’s M.M News medium.
Bangladesh, one of the countries enjoying Road to Makkah Initiative, announced a delayed first flight from 31st May 2022 to 5th June. The situation arose due to inability of Saudi Arabia’s 40-member team to arrive in Dhaka in time for commencement of the inaugural flight. This information was contained in Daily Observer of Tuesday, 24th May 2022. The Bangladesh Daily Sun of 20th May adds that many Hajj related activities are yet to be concluded.
In Malaysia, a Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department of Religious Affairs, Senator Datuk Idris Ahmad revealed that first flight for Malaysian pilgrims this year would be on June 4, a date slightly later than the previously planned, May 31. The delay in Malaysia’s case is however due to the reduced number of pilgrims from the country this year.
Relatedly, South African Hajj and Umrah council, as of May 17th 2022 announced through its twitter handle that it has not received associated cost of Hajj 2022 from Saudi Arabia, therefore the council extended its deadline for accreditation of Hujjaaj and Hajj operators.
Nevertheless, the peculiarity inundating this year’s timely readiness for the Hajj may not be the only issue. The real joker is most likely the Hajj fare.
Pointers from various countries confirm hike in 2022 Hajj fare. Reasons alluded to this include mandatory prearrival covid-19 test, increase in Saudi Arabia’s VAT charges, a rise in the cost of jet-A fuel, and in Nigeria, a depreciation of the Naira exchange rate to the Dollar. Yet even these causes are inconclusive, Hajj participating countries are still waiting for the cost of Saudi Arabia’s Hajj components to be revealed after which the actual increase would be determined.
So far, countries have calculated their tentative Hajj costs while awaiting the Saudi determinants. Most cases reported are already above the previous amounts. From Pakistan for instance, intending pilgrims are expected to pay approximately Rs850,000 compared to 2019’s Rs435,000. This amount is despite the fact that the Saudi government is yet to send its own expenses to the Pakistani government, Pro Pakistani news of 24th May 2022 disclosed.
Moroccans participating in Hajj 2022 will have to pay MAD 63,0000 ( $6,405), according to the Moroccan Islamic Affairs Ministry. This cost does not include personal travel allowances. The ministry emphasized that those who meet the conditions to perform Hajj must deposit the amount in “one go at a bank postal agency” between May 30 and June 3. The Morocco world news reports that in 2019, the cost of the Hajj was MAD 49,906 ($5,010) excluding pilgrims’ personal expenses.
From Malaysia, chairperson of Commission VIII of the House of Representatives (DPR), Yandri Susanto, informed that the determined charge for Hajj pilgrimage in 2022 AD would be Rp39,886,009 (US$2,763) per participant. In 2019, Hajj costed Rp35,235,602 or USD 2,481 (1 USD = Rp14,200) per person.
Likewise, a Bangladeshi intending pilgrim would pay a minimum of $5,332 to perform Hajj this year, the amount also does not include hadaya charges (sacrificial charge). The Business Standard newspaper analysis indicates this amount as 47% more ($3,627) than that of a pilgrim in Pakistan, and 93% ($2,763) above Indonesia’s 2022 Hajj fare.
Back home in Nigeria, management of National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) have requested intending pilgrims to pay N2,5000,000 as tentative Hajj fare pending the computation of the final fare which is currently ongoing in Saudi Arabia. This amount is roughly N1,000,000 above 2019 fare.
NAHCON management, fully aware that any delay in Hajj prearrangement is antithetical to smooth operations had planned to commence airlift from 6th of June 2022. This date however remains speculative due to 2022 Hajj compelling situations. However, feelers from the Kingdom suggest the actual fare and other prerequisite instructions would be announced anytime soon. Who knows, there may be some exciting news awaiting Nigerian intending pilgrims.
Usara is Asssistant Director, Public Affairs, NAHCON