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FG urged to give concessionary forex to intending pilgrims


Muslim pilgrims join one of the Hajj rituals on Mount Arafat near Mecca early on September 11, 2016 Close to 1.5 million Muslims from around the world prepared on September 10 night for the climax of the annual hajj pilgrimage at a rocky hill known as Mount Arafat. The pilgrims will mark September 11 with day-long prayers and recitals of the Koran holy book at the spot in western Saudi Arabia where they believe their Prophet Mohammed gave his last hajj sermon. PHOTO: AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP

To ease the burden of new policies introduce by Saudi Arabia, the Media Awareness Initiative for Hajj (MAI-HAJJ) has urged the Federal Government of Nigeria to assist Nigerian intending pilgrims with low concessionary exchange rate for Nigerian pilgrimage so as to have a hitch free 2018 Hajj exercise.

The National Chairman and Publicity Secretary of the association, Malam Garba Ubale Dambatta and Muhammad Kabiru Yusuf, in a jointly-signed statement, said doing so would reduce the high cost expected for pilgrimage in one hand and assist intending pilgrims to exercise their religious rites at ease.

Considering new policies Saudi Arabian government introduced this year, MAI-Hajj observed with dismay that there is every tendency that the 2018 hajj fare may be higher than the 2017 rate, hence solicit for the Federal Government to come to the rescue of Nigerian intending pilgrims.

“MAI-HAJJ learnt that Saudi Arabia has introduced five per cent Value Added Tax, (VAT) on all services, cost of electricity supply increased to almost three times, the price petrol increased by almost 200 per cent, while the new accommodation policy provide that Saudi Authority will not allow more than four pilgrims in a room, which will definitely affect the costs of pilgrims’ accommodation.

“Following this development, MAI-HAJJ is appealing to the Federal Government to grant low concessionary exchange rate so as to alleviate the burden of hardships on Nigerian pilgrims. The association urged Federal Government to consider giving a concessionary exchange rate of N250 to $1as doing this will bring down the cost of 2018 hajj,” it stated.

Meanwhile, MAI-HAJJ has commended NAHCON for its plan to educate intending pilgrims on the new policies introduced by the Saudi Arabian authorities, adding that the awareness campaign would assist pilgrims to perform their religious obligation freely.

The new policies, according to the association, include introduction of VAT, BioMetrix Data Capture and the introduction of 2000 Saudi Riyals charges for Hajj and Umrah second timers, are introduced by Saudi government to enhance security and economic well-being.

“Really, the sensitization programmes would in fact knowledge to intending pilgrims on the rules and regulations of Saudi Arabia as well as to remind intending pilgrims of the need to conclude payments of their 2018 Hajj fares on time in order to enable the NAHCON meet up with the Saudi dateline for closure of Hajj registration,” it stated.

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