The Sokoto State Government has debunked media reports which claim the state sponsored 90 Muslim clerics on the lesser Hajj to Mecca to pray for President Muhammadu Buhari.
On Tuesday, June 13, the Sokoto state commissioner for religious affairs, Alhaji Mani Katami was quoted as saying the state government has spent the sum of N91 million to sponsor 90 Muslim clerics on a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia and urged the clerics to pray for the quick recovery of President Muhammadu Buhari, according to the media report.
But Governor Aminu Tambuwal’s spokesman Imam Imam has denied the report, describing it as “untrue and misleading”. Quoting the published story on Twitter, Imam wrote:
“Very very untrue and misleading. Nothing of such has happened in Sokoto, please. Thanks.”
According to the report, the commissioner said that each of the benefiting clerics was entitled to a Basic Travelling Allowance (BTA) of N250, 000.
Katami said Buhari’s healing will enable the president return to Nigeria and continue with the good work he is doing for the country while stating that the clerics would also pray for the peace, unity and socio-economic prosperity of Nigeria. The Commissioner also advised the clerics to desist from conducts capable of tarnishing the image of the country while on pilgrimage.
Meanwhile, ahead of the 2017 Hajj in Mecca, intending pilgrims in Niger state have been warned to abstain from carrying prohibited items to Saudi Arabia.
While addressing newsmen in Minna on Wednesday, June 15, Chairman of the Niger State Pilgrims Welfare Board, Alhaji Adamu Zungeru, listed some of the prohibited items to include kola nuts and drugs.
The Chairman explained that the Saudi Government would not be light-hearted with pilgrims found violating its rules and regulations, adding that the board has already secured decent accommodations for the intending pilgrims from the state.
“Clinic and medical personnel will be provided to address the health challenges of the pilgrims as well as clerics to guide pilgrims,” Zungeru said.
Also, following complaints about the increase in the 2017 Hajj fare compared to that of 2016, an Islamic rights group, Muslims Rights Concern (MURIC) has urged Nigerians not to blame the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) for the hike.
According to the organisation’s Executive Director, Ishaq Akintola, the high exchange rate is responsible for the situation which is beyond NAHCON’s control.
NAHCON had announced the sum of N1.5 million as the cost for this year’s Hajj fare which generated ripples and prospective pilgrims questioned why the fare is higher than that of 2016, calling on the Federal Government and other stakeholders to subsidise the fare.
But in a statement, MURIC said it considers the ensuing controversy as “unnecessary, uncalled for and a sheer waste of saliva and misuse of calories”, adding that the suspicion, distrust and allegations levelled at NAHCON are equally products of misinformation. The group further explains:
“Our investigations reveal that 98% of the services rendered by NAHCON in Saudi Arabia are determined in US dollars. Although 2016 official exchange rate was N197, recession and the attendant fall of the naira forced 2017 official exchange rate to N305. Whereas a pilgrim needed just $4,003 in 2016, his need in 2017 has risen to $4,805.
“Now, if we multiply $4,805 by N305, what we will get is N1,465,525 (approximately N1.5m). This is why NAHCON has pegged the 2017 Hajj fare at N1.5 million. Further investigation has also revealed that air ticket from the North is $1,600 while that of the South is $1,700. Furthermore, the cost of accommodation in Makkah is $933 while that of Madina is $430. These are easily verifiable.
“MURIC opposes further subsidy for Hajj this year for three reasons. Firstly, FG has already subsidised 2017 Hajj because the official exchange rate is N368 whereas FG allowed N305. Pilgrims would have had to pay N1,768,240 (approximately N1.8m) at the prevailing bank rate of N368 per dollar if FG had not subsidised at all.”Secondly, Nigeria is in recession and Nigerian Muslims must be prepared to make sacrifices as
“Secondly, Nigeria is in recession and Nigerian Muslims must be prepared to make sacrifices as the government cannot afford to play the prodigal son at a time like this. About N34b would be needed to subsidise if pilgrims were to enjoy the 2016 rate of N197 per dollar but this cannot be rationalized in the face of the current recession.
“Thirdly, every special concession granted to Muslims is most likely to become a subject of controversy as Christian groups are most likely to challenge FG for taking such an action. We must take the diverse character of our country into consideration at all times.”
The group said it is highly naïve to blame either NAHCON, FG or the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for the increase in the Hajj fare as the above details clarified all misconceptions.