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Government spends N8billion on forex waiver for pilgrims

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Muslim pilgrims circle counterclockwise Islam's holiest shrine, the Kaaba, at the Grand Mosque in the Saudi holy city of Mecca, during the 2015 Hajj. AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED AL-SHAIKH

Muslim pilgrims circle counterclockwise Islam’s holiest shrine, the Kaaba, at the Grand Mosque in the Saudi holy city of Mecca, during the 2015 Hajj. AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED AL-SHAIKH

Kwara begins airlifting tomorrow

With the express directive of the Federal Government to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to disburse scarce dollars to pilgrims at subsidised rate, it is splashing about N7. 9 billion ($24.9 million) as subsidy.

The amount (subsidy), which is an equivalent of some days’ trade volume at the illiquid interbank market due to scarcity, represents 38.22 per cent of the total value to be expended on the exercise, estimated at N20. 8 billion ($65.9 million).

The directive, which is coming amid foreign exchange supply shortages to the real and related sectors of the economy, will hit the nation’s reserve profile in the next few days.

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The huge subsidy, representing 61 per cent loss when compared with the closing exchange rate of N318.91 as at Friday, will amount to billions of naira against taxpayers.

Meanwhile, Executive Secretary of the Kwara State Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Board, Hajia Fatimoh Abolore-Jimoh said yesterday that the airlifting of pilgrims from the state to Saudi Arabia would commence tomorrow.

Abolore-Jimoh spoke with reporters shortly after a special prayer organised for the intending pilgrims.

Also, Chairman of Ogun State Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Board, Dr. Ishaq Yusuf, has assured its over 1, 200 intending Muslim pilgrims of adequate provision of good health facilities and safety, as the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) has put in place modern technology to monitor their movement for the period of the hajj exercise.

Yusuf gave the assurance, while addressing the faithful during the final seminar organised in conjunction with the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), and other relevant stakeholders in Abeokuta.

According to the CBN directive, each of the 65,170 pilgrims is entitled to between $750 and $1000, and judging the average Nigerian’s disposition towards the greenback, the upper limit of $1000 would be the target of the majority of the pilgrims.

The reserves have remained stable at $26 billion for the past two months, with marginal gains and shortfalls.

The unstable movement of the reserves’ profile during the last two months has been attributed to savings and interventions by CBN under the newly inaugurated flexible exchange rate policy.

An analysis of the spread of the pilgrims across the six geopolitical zones showed that South East, made up of five states, has a total of 391 slots, with value estimated at $391,000 at $100 per participant.


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