By Tanko Mohammed Rabiu
A case study from current audio-visual comments by Former Ghana’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Alhaji Said Sinare
In 2016, the Ghana Hajj board announced $3,450 equivalent to GHC 11,900 with an exchange rate of GHC 3.45 to $1 in 2016, Meanwhile our brothers from Nigeria paid a maximum amount of $1,500 equivalent to 1,155,947.42 Naira and a minimum of $750 equivalent of 1,008,197
For that matter, the Ghana Hajj fare was twice that of Nigeria and Alhaji Sinare who tried playing politics with Hajj operations was Ghana’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia and it must be discouraged irrespective of one’s political affiliation.
Even with the Hajj fare of GHC 11,900 in 2016, Ghana participated fully in the Hajj despite some initial complaints of how expensive it was at that time which wasn’t the fault of the Hajj board by then because Muslims consider the last pillar of Islam as a lifetime spiritual achievement and another way of reaching out to Allah directly. So, irrespective of how much it costs to perform Hajj, every Muslim will sacrifice their legitimate resources to embark on the Hajj pilgrimage.
Before the world was hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, there were no taxes in Saudi Arabia and a litre of petrol cost less than a litre of bottled water.
The world was hit by the COVID-19 pandemic which affected every nation in the world economically. As a result, the hajj pilgrimage was suspended for countries outside Saudi Arabia for two years until 2022. Saudi Arabia had increased the VAT from 5% to %15 which translated into a high cost of performing Hajj for all countries.
Post COVID-19 pandemic also saw a surge in the forex market especially doing business or transacting in the US dollar. The recovery program of industrialized countries has pushed the price of goods and services to rise thus having a direct effect on third-world countries like Ghana and Nigeria where imports are higher than export. This and many factors have therefore affected the Cedi in the forex market forcing the Cedi to depreciate against the US dollar of $1 to GHC 12.9.
This year’s Hajj fares of various countries including developed countries are hitting a maximum of $8,000 and a minimum of $5,400 depending on the airline’s proximity and cost.
The high cost of Hajj and Umrah has therefore compelled the Ghana Hajj Board to fix the Hajj fare in correspondence to the cost of hajj services in Saudi Arabia including airline services, aviation charges and other administrative costs. The Ghana Hajj fare includes feeding pilgrims twice a day from Madina and the rest of the stay in Saudi Arabia which wasn’t the case in 2016 and the Hajj operations before 2016.
Even with the depreciation of the Cedi to the USA dollar, the Ghana Hajj Board has pegged the exchange rate to GHC 11.5 to $1 for prospective Ghanaian pilgrims to be able to pay the $6,500 hajj fare which is the GHC 75,000 instead of paying around GHC 84,000 With an exchange rate of GHC 12.9 to $1.
In conclusion, every Ghanaian Muslim living in and outside Ghana should with fear of Allah avoid using Hajj operations in partisan politics irrespective of the political regime. There should be a consensus in Hajj-related matters across the board and issues of Hajj should be treated as sacred following the teachings of Prophet Mohammed S.A.W. which ever Hajj Board is in service should be given the needed support in solidarity to succeed.
Tanko Mohammed Rabiu of Hajj and Umrah independent Reporter writes from Ghana