This writer wishes to correct an erroneous impression over the $100 reduction from the 2023 Hajj Basic Traveling Allowance (BTA) in relation to Sudan crisis and closure of its airspace.
It would be recalled that the crisis in Sudan has added an increase in flight duration from Nigeria to Saudi Arabia with about two hours approximate whilst crossing over additional airspaces. This had forced the airlines to charge extra money for the additional fuel the journey would consume as well as the extra cost for additional aeronautical airspaces they must cross. From professional advice, the amount that this would cost exceeds $700 per pilgrim depending on the departure zone. Thanks to the kind understanding of the contracted airlines, the Commission had negotiated, and they agreed to collect the barest minimum of $250.
For good reason, the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria, NAHCON did not wish to request pilgrims to pay additional balance of the airfare because of the financial stress it would cause them. It may interest the reader to know that at the time of commencement of Hajj Visa processing, NAHCON detected SR 65 (sixty-five Saudi Riyals) as hidden charges which would have been the responsibility of pilgrims to pay. Out of the Commission’s magnanimity, that amount was offset for Nigerian Pilgrims by NAHCON to cut down further expenses from them. Thus NAHCON had shouldered this responsibility as sacrifice for the Nigerian intending pilgrims from its internal revenue and with a hopeful collaboration with Saudi Arabian government to this effect.
Because NAHCON’s resources had already been overstretched, and knowing that Pilgrims’ purses had also been affected by rise of foreign exchange, coupled with the fact that time was already limited for pilgrims to start raising and depositing the equivalent of $250 ( to probably get at Black Market rate), and for the states to start remitting same to the Commission, NAHCON’s best option was to reduce pilgrims’ BTA by $100. The good news is that this amount had already been deposited by the pilgrims and it is already within the coffers of the States’ Pilgrims’ Welfare offices. Take note, it is NAHCON’s responsibility to set an amount as BTA.
After weighing the options, taking cognizance that Pilgrims would be fed in Saudi Arabia, while their medical care is already the responsibility of NAHCON and Saudi Arabia to whom they have paid medical insurance covering emergency cases only, pilgrims were spared the pressure of paying additionally for the airfare. Instead, the BTA was reduced to $700 as relief to and supplement to the extra cost.
Therefore, no pilgrim is requested to pay extra $100 or 40% of the additional airfare, rather, BTA for 2023 Hajj was reduced to $700 to offset unforeseen war consequential charges.
Usara is Assistant Director in Public Affairs Unit, NAHCON