Operators of Hajj and Umrah services have cried out for an urgent bailout from the federal government to enable them fulfil their spiritual and moral obligations.
The operators, under the aegis of Association of Hajj and Umrah Operators in Nigeria (AHOUN), told Daily Trust that they suffered huge loss as a result of a cancellation of this year’s hajj and umrah pilgrimages occasioned by COVID-19 pandemic.
They pleaded with the federal government to extend to them the bailout it gave to other sectors that were also affected by the pandemic.
“We are appealing to the federal government for support as AHUON is mostly affected. There was no hajj pilgrimage this year, and this affects our spiritual and business concerns,” the Director, Hasha Travel and Tours, Alhaji Danlami Umar, told Daily Trust.
The Managing Director, Comerel Travels Nigeria, Ustaz Abubakr Siddeeq Muhammad, said the COVID-19 pandemic came on the heels of high currency exchange rate in 2019, leading to low patronage.
He said their services were charged and paid in US dollars and Saudi Arabian Riyals by the authorities.
Compared to previous years, Nigeria recorded low turnout of pilgrims for the 2018 and 2019 Umrah. Many intending pilgrims shelved their plans even after securing visas.
“Because of the high currency exchange rate then, people were deterred by the amount they arrived at after converting the package prices to naira,” he said.
He said there was nothing wrong if government gives bailouts to tour operators as this would be to the overall benefit of the country.