CSO urges FG to take a stand on 2024 Hajj forex policy

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Independent Hajj Reporters, a faith based Civil Society Organization (CSO) has said that the seemingly slow progress being recorded in pre-Hajj pilgrims’ preparations and documentation ahead of this year’s holy pilgrimage calls for concern.

IHR in a statement signed by its national coordinator Ibrahim Muhammed on Friday said Nigerian intending pilgrims are very apprehensive as to what will become of their intention to fulfill the fifth pillar of Islam owing to the ongoing slow pace of developments.

“For example, with less than 60 days to the commencement of airlift of pilgrims to Saudi Arabia, NAHCON is yet to execute some vital pre hajj operational plans due to its inability to have a clear clarification on governments forex transactions benchmark for this year’s hajj – a policy that has been previously implemented for both Christian and Muslim pilgrims in the country,” the CSO said.

IHR also said it is aware that the government has extended the same intervention to Christian pilgrims late last year.

“As at today, no single pilgrim has been enrolled in Saudi Arabia’s hajj E-track system because NAHCON is yet to affect the needed financial obligations in the portal.

“Most importantly, Saudi Arabia has commenced issuance of visa to intending pilgrims from all hajj participating countries on 1st of March – signaling the beginning of the end of visa processes for anyone who wishes to participate in 2024 – NAHCON is yet to kick start the visa process,” IHR said.

The CSO further reminds all concern that Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah 2024 Hajj Calendar is being implemented accordingly and therefore calls on the Federal Government and NAHCON to be wary of the negative effects of further delays.

According to the calendar as released by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, the Visa issuing portal which was opened for all countries on March 1, will be closed on 29th of April.

The Calendar also shows that the first batch of pilgrims are expected to arrive in Saudi Arabia on 9th of May 2024 – 55 days from today.

“While we acknowledge that government procedures are geared towards preventing anomalies in the system, Nigerian authorities should understand that Hajj is a unique exercise that is guided strictly by the Saudi Arabian Hajj and Umrah calendar.

“Any delay caused by the Nigerian Government’s bureaucracies can only affect Nigerian pilgrims or prevent them from participating in Hajj.

“The day of Arafat cannot be altered nor can Nigeria’s peculiar internal affairs affect the commencement and closing date of important pre hajj activities like: visa processing, payment to Saudi Hajj service providers, airlift of pilgrims, movement of pilgrims to Masha’ir, and purchase of slots by airlines to airlifts intending pilgrims from Nigeria to Saudi Arabia.

IHR said it is important to understand that each intending pilgrim to this year’s Hajj has paid a minimum of N4.7 million to cater for their services during the hajj.

Therefore, we urge the federal government to immediately take appropriate actions to either fulfill its promises or renege on hajj forex transaction to enable hajj authorities in Nigeria and Saudi Arabia implements necessary pre hajj preparations for our dear pilgrims who has paid their fees to fulfill the fifth pillar of Islam, IHR said.

E- Signed

Ibrahim Muhammed

For: Independent Hajj Reporters

15th March 2024

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