Hajj 2018 patronage drops despite lower fare

Nigeria is yet to register half of its 95,000 hajj slots, more than a week since the commencement of airlift of pilgrims to Saudi Arabia for the annual exercise, findings by Daily Trust revealed.

This is despite the reduction in cost of a hajj seat to an average of N1.4m this year as against N1.5m in 2017. Hajj is mandatory at least once for Muslims who are fit physically and financially to perform it.

Checks by Daily Trust showed most states have filled only about half of their allocated quotas as at Wednesday, July 25, the deadline for registration set by National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON).

For the 2018 Hajj, NAHCON allocated 20,000 out of the 95,000 seats to private tour operators and the bulk to states.

The National President, Association of Hajj and Umrah Operators on Nigeria, Malam Salihu Butu, told Daily Trust that about 10,000 pilgrims have registered with the tour operators.

Efforts to get the official figures from NAHCON of those who have completed payment were not successful. But analysis of figures from across the states showed that less than 40,000 as at Thursday, 26 July. The figures do not include tour operators.

Numbers drop across states

In Kano, the Executive Secretary of the State Pilgrims Welfare Board, Alhaji Muhammad Abba Dambatta said the state was allocated 5,500 seats this year but only 2,810 paid fully as at Wednesday. He added that 900 of the cleared pilgrims have since secured their visas. Katsina, so far, registered 2,750 out of the 4,800 hajj seats, according to officials. In 2017, a total 4,930 performed hajj from the state.

‎For Edo State, 254 slots were allocated but only 130 have completed their payment, the Chairman of the state pilgrims’ board, Ibrahim Oyarekhua, told Daily Trust.

In Lagos, 2,000 out of the 3,050 seats allocated to the state pilgrims’ board have been booked. Many are however yet to complete their payment, sources told our reporter.

In Kwara State, 1,600 out of the 2,200 slots have completed registration for hajj exercise, the Executive Secretary of the state’s pilgrims’ board, Alhaji Muhammed Tunde Jimoh said, adding that 600 others could not complete their payment.

Nasarawa registered 650 out of the 1,158 slots allocated to it, the state pilgrims board’s spokesperson, Abdulrazak Muhammed said. He said dozens had deposited half of the money but were unable to complete the payments up till the commencement of flights to Saudi Arabia.

The Secretary, Yobe State Pilgrims Welfere Commission, Alhaji Bukar Kime, said 897 have already completed their payment and registration. The state got 1,411 hajj seats this year as against 2,256 in 2017, he added.

In Gombe, only 1,200 out of the 2,050 slots were registered by the state board as at July 21, the Executive Secretary, Alhaji Usman Gurama, said. 

He said even though the hajj seat was cheaper this year compared to last year, many people could not afford to pay this year.

Zamfara was allocated 4,680 seats but, so far, only 2,000 intending pilgrims have completed their registration, according to the PRO of the state pilgrims’ board, Malam Yakubu Yahaya Mafara.

In Kaduna, 3,200 completed their payment as at the commencement of flights to Saudi Arabia. The state was allocated 6,332 hajj seats, according to the PRO, of Kaduna pilgrims’ board, Malam Yunusa Abdullahi.

Jigawa State was allocated 1,774 slots. The Executive Secretary of Jigawa State Muslims Pilgrims Welfare Board, Mohammad Sani Alhassan, said out of the 736 that have paid, visas have been secured for 632.

He said Jigawa State government had since stopped sponsoring pilgrims apart from officials, which include Medical personnel, ulamas, journalists and other auxiliary staff.

Plateau has, so far, completed registration of 800 intending pilgrims out of 1,111 allocated seats.

The Executive Secretary of the state pilgrims board, Barrister Auwal Abdullahi said the board was still compiling a comprehensive list following last minute rush and therefore could not give an accurate figure at the time of filing this report.

A total of 719 hajj seats were allocated to Kogi but only 446 pilgrims were able to complete payment.

In Taraba State, only 442 hajj seats were booked out of 1,220 seats allocated to the state. The PRO of the state board, Malam Usman Baba Muri, said out of the 442, only 332 completed payment.

Adamawa secured 2,601 hajj slots, but 1,660 intending pilgrims failed to complete payment. The Executive Secretary, Adamawa State Pilgrims Board, Eng. Umar Abdurrahman Bobboi said the affected persons could not meet the Wednesday deadline for completion of payment.

Osun State, which oversubscribed the slots allocated to it last year, has not been able to meet its quota this year.

The Administrative Secretary of the Osun State Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Board, Alhaji Sikiru Adetona Alao, said out of the 964 slots allocated to the state this year, only 500 registered with the agency as at second week of July.

In Sokoto State, Director General of the state Pilgrims Welfare Agency, Alhaji Shehu Dange said 4,844 seats were allocated to the state but only 2,837 registered for the 2018 hajj exercise.

‘Why patronage is low this year’

Stakeholders have advanced reasons for the seeming drop in the number of Hajj pilgrims this year. This is even as Daily Trust learnt that Muslim leaders and other stakeholders are working on the state governments, individuals and wealthy organisations, to intervene on behalf of intending pilgrims who have paid at least 70 percent of their fares. 

Hajj managers across the states attributed the low patronage to the economic realities in the country, which, they said, prevent many intending pilgrims to complete their payments.

Farmers topped the list of last year’s pilgrims in many states but could not achieve the same feat this year.

Malam Abdulrashid Funtua, a farmer in Katsina, said “Last year, you need only 100 bags of maize or guinea corn to get that amount, but this year you need close to 180 bags for same amount.” Daily Trust reports that a bag of maize cost about N13,000 last year as against N9,000 this year.

Another factor resulting in the low number of pilgrims this year, according to some Hajj officials and stakeholders, has to do with the compulsory payment of 2,000 introduced by Saudi Arabia Riyals for pilgrims who have performed hajj in the last four years.

According to statistics, over 70 percent of Nigerian pilgrims in the last five years are repeaters. A repeater in Nigeria this year will have to pay N1.7 million as opposed to N1.4 million paid by first timers.

The effects of exchange rate of N360/$1 also affected the ability of most pilgrims to pay.

The pegging of minimum deposits at N800,000 and N1 million by states pilgrims boards, unlike in the past which was N500,000 and below, to a large extent discouraged prospective pilgrims.

Another factor is that government at various levels have stopped the sponsorship of pilgrims. Previously, local government chairmen especially in the North sponsored 200 to 300 pilgrims while states government like Kano, Sokoto, Kaduna, Katsina sponsored between 1, 500 to 2,000 pilgrims, codenamed “GS”.

Previously, the Federal Government can sponsor 3,000 complimentary hajj seats which have been cancelled.

An Islamic cleric, Mohammed Halilu, noted that many Muslims are coming to terms that the holy trip is no jamboree but a spiritual exercise and that a single hajj in a lifetime suffices.

The PRO of the Adamawa State Pilgrims Board, Mustapha Aliyu, attributed the failure to complete payment partly to farmer-herder conflict in the state which affected the economy of many people.

He said herders and farmers always constituted majority of pilgrims from the state.

“Hajj seat is cheaper this year. Pilgrims paid N1,530,000 last year as against N1,476,200 this year. Yet 2,600 seats were paid for last year. So it is not about the cost. Most of our pilgrims are herders, then farmers. Apart from the conflict, another factor is the falling prices of cattle and foodstuff which also affected the two groups”, he said.

According to the PRO of the Zamfara State pilgrims’ board, Malam Yakubu Yahaya Mafara, the number of intending pilgrims reduced to less 50% now because of the security challenges in the state.

“Some people, especially in the rural communities are afraid to expose their financial strength for fear of falling prey to kidnappers and armed robbers. Also, herders that constitute a good number of pilgrims have migrated owing to the conflicts,” he said. 

With additional reports by Nuruddeen M. Abdallah (Abuja), Yusha’u A. Ibrahim (Kano), Habibu Umar Aminu (Katsina), Usman A. Bello (Benin), Abdullateef Aliyu (Lagos), Romoke W. Ahmad (Ilorin), Hassan Ibrahim (Lafia), Hamisu Kabir Matazu (Damaturu), Haruna Gimba Yaya (Gombe), Shehu Umar (Gusau), Maryam Ahmadu-Suka (Kaduna), Aliyu M. Hamagam (Dutse), Lami Sadiq (Jos), Itodo Daniel Sule (Lokoja), Magaji Isa Hunkuyi (Jalingo), Kabiru R. Anwar (Yola), Rakiya A. Muhammad and Abubakar Auwal (Sokoto)

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