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April 5, 2024

Furore over FG’s N90bn Hajj subsidy unnecessary – MURIC

The Executive Director of MURIC, Professor Ishaq Akintola

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The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) has faulted criticisms over the recently approved N90 billion subsidy by President Bola Tinubu for the 2024 Hajj operation.

Prof. Ishaq Akintola, the Executive Director, MURIC stated this in a statement on Friday in Abuja.

Akintola said criticism was spiced with bad blood, garnished with toxic faith and served with tramadolised religiousity.

“President Bola Tinubu recently approved a N90 billion subsidy for the 2024 Hajj operation. However, the move has been heavily criticized by some individuals and groups. Some of the critics accused the president of giving undue favour to Muslim pilgrims because he is also a Muslim.

“Some even went as far as describing what Tinubu did as sponsoring Muslims on hajj. We can take it from there. There is a world of difference between sponsoring hajj and subsidizing it. To sponsor hajj, government has to pay the whole bill including the return ticket, accommodation in Saudi Arabia, feeding, etc, whereas it is only a part of the bill that government will pay in case of subsidy.

“We need to clarify our position on subsidising and sponsoring hajj as defined above within the context of the recent N90 billion subsidy offered by the Tinubu administration to support 2024 Muslim pilgrims.

“MURIC had opposed sponsorship of hajj by the federal, state, local government or government agencies, We still stand on this pronouncement. Even the Nigerian Supreme Council For Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) took this stand earlier in 2016,” he said.

Akintola added: “Tinubu’s subsidy is a horse of another colour. This is because the president’s intervention is not outright sponsorship but a rescue mission. Such rescue missions are not uncommon in the past when the nation was faced with a crisis that required government’s intervention.

“The Muslim pilgrims of 2024 had demonstrated expression of interest and committed themselves to the hajj scheme by paying the initial amount of N4.9 million in full. But the global economic downturn and the Nigerian foreign exchange bruhaha forced the hajj authorities (NAHCON) to demand an additional N1.9 million.

“At this point most of the prospective pilgrims had reached the end of their tethers. Some of them were able to raise the first tranche of N4.9 million by selling their properties. Others raised it by saving over a period of five or more years.

“To fully understand the plight of 2024 intending pilgrims, we may need to compare the fees paid by 2023 pilgrims. 2023 Hajj fare was N1.8m for pilgrims flying from Maiduguri and Yola. Others paid more depending on the distance.”

“But the cost of pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia hit the roofs this year for obvious reasons and the unfortunate prospective pilgrims faced a dilemma. It had somehow become a frustrating experience particularly for those who could not raise any additional money.

“The National Hajj Commission (NAHCON) has revealed that 46,000 out of the 95,000 slots given to Nigeria for the 2024 pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia have been unable to pay their fares and other charges for the 2024 Hajj.

“No responsible government anywhere in the world will ignore the plight of such a large number of its citizens under such a vulnerable and unpredictable condition. Tinubu’s intervention is therefore in order.

“By the way, it was not as if Tinubu played Father Christmas with the N90 billion subsidy because the actual amount needed to bail out the pilgrims was N230 billion. Many stakeholders, including the House of Representatives, appealed to the president to intervene in the matter of 2024 intending pilgrims before he made the move. Yet Tinubu did not pay the whole amount”.

“He did not even pay half of it. At least no mathematical abracadabra can make N90 billion one half of N230 billion. That explains why NAHCON has been appealing to state governments and other stakeholders to come up with the balance. As a result of NAHCON’s appeal, Kano, Kebbi, Kogi and a few others have added their widow’s mite.