How Buhari saved over N83 billion through Hajj reforms By Zee Agunbiade

If anyone tells you that President Muhammadu Buhari is planning to Islamise Nigeria, just show this to them and walk away. This is enough education for those that want to learn.

The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) has said decisions taken by President Muhammadu Buhari and the reforms introduced by the commission has saved Nigeria pilgrims over N83 billion during Hajj operations in 2017.

• The practice in the past was for presidents to give concessionary exchange rates for pilgrims going to Hajj. For instance, while the official exchange rate of $1 to the naira was N190 in 2016, President Goodluck Jonathan had earlier granted a concession which reduced the exchange rate to N160 for $1, the government therefore, subsidized each dollar with N30.

• Buhari abolished the practice and also granted NAHCON approval to fix a flat BTA for all pilgrims. “Because of the concession, and because there were three types of Hajj seats at then, which were minimum, medium and maximum, often differentiated by BTA, one person will pay for say 200 persons and then connive with a financial institution to collect the subsidised BTA and then give the pilgrims pittance. It therefore, became an illegal business venture for some people,” – Fatima Usara, Head of Public Affairs at NAHCON

• The management of NAHCON led by Abdullahi Mohammed came into office in 2015 and one of the first decisions he took after meeting with the NAHCON chairman was to abolish the practice of federal government’s sponsorship of a delegation to hajj annually.

• The decision alone saved the government N1.6 billion annually. Also, NAHCON in 2017 decided to abolish the use of middle men in securing accommodation for Nigerian pilgrims in Saudi Arabia. Instead, the commission deals directly with home owners which saved the country over $14 million.

• NAHCON said another reform introduced in 2017 regarding Hadaya (sacrificial animal) has saved pilgrims N1.6 billion. The reform sees the introduction of Jaiz Bank to work in conjunction with Islamic Development Bank to collect monies meant for the purchase of sacrificial animals from the pilgrims and issue them coupons.

• If not for the new scheme Nigerian pilgrims “would have been defrauded of N1.6 billion.” NAHCON in 2016 refunded N1.5 billion to pilgrims for services poorly rendered to them, adding “due to improved services in 2017” the figure refunded to pilgrims came down to N527 million.

• As the commission continues preparation for Hajj 2019 it is already fully utilising the Hajj development levy collected by upgrading Hajj departure centres in some states across the country. The commission intends to kick start the Hajj saving scheme introduced earlier in 2018, while a Hajj training institute meant to train Hajj managers, intending pilgrims and the general public.

• NAHCON is heading towards self-funding to reduce the burden on government.

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