States, individuals spend N136.5bn on Hajj despite recession

 

Nigerians have spent at least N136.5bn this year to perform Hajj in Saudi Arabia, according to Punch.  

The huge amount of money was spent by both individuals and state governments for Hajj despite the current recession in the country.

Information made available by the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) shows that at least 91,000 Nigerians joined over 1.7 million other pilgrims to perform the religious obligation in Saudi Arabia.

The average travelling cost for each pilgrim as approved by NAHCON is N1.5m. Therefore, 91,000 Nigerians would have spent a minimum of N136.5bn on the Hajj exercise, with substantial part of it coming from public purse provided by state governments.

The report says that Katsina, Bauchi, Plateau and Sokoto states sponsored people on Hajj this year.

Although going on Hajj at least once in a lifetime is one of the five pillars of Islam, the Quran described it as a religious obligation that is meant for the faithful who can afford it.

State governments also sponsor Christians on pilgrimage to Jerusalem although it is not a religious obligation like Hajj.

Aminu Masari, Governor of Katsina State, recently disclosed that his administration had been subsidising Hajj exercise for Muslims with N1bn annually.

Similarly, the Bauchi State Government spent over N262,650,000 as subsidy on the state’s Muslim pilgrims to this year’s Hajj.

Also this year, the Plateau State government went back on its 2015 decision to stop sponsoring pilgrimage but the state government reportedly sent 616 Muslims for the 2017 Hajj.

The Sokoto State Government had spent N91m to sponsor 90 Islamic clerics to the lesser Hajj in June.

Last year, Taraba State spent N288.5m to sponsor about 166 persons on Hajj.

In 2014, the Borno State Government said it had spent about N500m to secure good accommodation and welfare for 2,645 pilgrims to Mecca, and that 300 Saudi Riyals (N30,000) was given to each of them to enable them slaughter rams during Hajj.

In 213, the Niger State Government said it had spent about N5.1bn in the previous six years to subsidise Muslim and Christian pilgrimages to Mecca and Jerusalem respectively.

In 2016, the federal government subsidised the cost of pilgrimage for 65,167 by giving the pilgrims the privilege of a concessionary rate of N197 to a dollar as the official exchange rate was N318.9 to a dollar.

The report notes that the sponsorship of pilgrimage is increasingly becoming a subject of controversy, with the dwindling economic fortune of the country and the subsequent resolution by some states including Niger, Lagos, Kaduna and Kano to abolish it.

Punch quoted Lukman Abdurraheem, President of the Muslim Congress Nigeria, as describing the state sponsorship of the Hajj exercise as fraudulent.

He said it is wrong to use taxpayers’ money to send people on pilgrimage, adding that most states were using the exercise to steal state resources.






     

     

    “We believe that state sponsorship of Hajj is a fraudulent practice,” Abdurraheem said.

    “If you go by what the Holy Quran says, we should only visit Kaaba (a building at the centre of the Sacred Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia) if we have the means to do so.

    “The government doesn’t have to sponsor Muslims on Hajj; its role is to provide good roads, electricity, potable water and other social amenities. States are only using pilgrimage sponsorship to steal money.

    “Any religious person will tell you it’s wrong to use taxpayers’ funds to send people on pilgrimage. That’s why I commend states like Lagos for stopping it.”

     

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