MOTTO: DIALOGUE, NOT VIOLENCE

5th April, 2024

PRESS RELEASE:

FURORE OVER FG’S N90B HAJJ SUBSIDY UNNECESSARY – MURIC  

 

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu recently approved a N90 billion subsidy for the 2024 hajj operation. However, the move has been heavily criticized by some individuals and groups. Meanwhile an Islamic human rights advocacy organization, the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), has waded into the issue.

 

In a statement made available to journalists on Thursday, 5th April, 2024, Professor Ishaq Akintola, Founder and Executive Director of the group, said criticism of the hajj subsidy was spiced with bad blood, garnished with toxic faith and served with tramadolised religiousity.

 

The full statement reads:

 

“President Bola Ahmed Tinubu recently approved a N90 billion subsidy for the 2024 hajj operation. However, the move has been heavily criticized by some individuals and groups. Some of the critics accused the president of giving undue favour to Muslim pilgrims because he is also a Muslim.

 

“Some even went as far as describing what Tinubu did as sponsoring Muslims on hajj. We can take it from there. There is a world of difference between sponsoring hajj and subsidizing it. To sponsor hajj, government has to pay the whole bill including the return ticket, accommodation in Saudi Arabia, feeding, etc, whereas it is only a part of the bill that government will pay in case of subsidy.

 

“We need to clarify our position on subsidising and sponsoring hajj as defined above within the context of the recent N90 billion subsidy offered by the Tinubu administration to support 2024 Muslim pilgrims.

 

“MURIC had opposed sponsorship of hajj by the federal, state, local government or government agencies in our statement of 14th June, 2017, (https://dailytrust.com/hajj-fare-muric-begs-fg-state-goverments-to-stop-sponsoring-intending-pilgrims/). We still stand on this pronouncement. Even the Nigerian Supreme Council For Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) took this stand earlier in 2016 (https://punchng.com/stop-organising-hajj-muslim-council-tells-fg/).

 

“Tinubu’s subsidy is a horse of another colour. This is because the president’s intervention is not outright sponsorship but a rescue mission. Such rescue missions are not uncommon in the past when the nation was faced with a crisis that required government’s intervention.

 

“The Muslim pilgrims of 2024 had demonstrated expression of interest and committed themselves to the hajj scheme by paying the initial amount of N4.9 million in full. But the global economic downturn and the Nigerian foreign exchange bruhaha forced the hajj authorities (NAHCON) to demand an additional N1.9 million.

 

“At this point most of the prospective pilgrims had reached the end of their tethers. Some of them were able to raise the first tranche of N4.9 million by selling their properties. Others raised it by saving over a period of five or more years.

 

“To fully understand the plight of 2024 intending pilgrims, we may need to compare the fees paid by 2023 pilgrims. 2023 Hajj fare was N1.8m for pilgrims flying from Maiduguri and Yola. Others paid more depending on the distance (https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/592201-muslims-pilgrims-agency-nahcon-announces-2023-hajj-fare.html?tztc=1).

 

“But the cost of pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia hit the roofs this year for obvious reasons and the unfortunate prospective pilgrims faced a dilemma. It had somehow become a frustrating experience particularly for those who could not raise any additional money.

 

“The National Hajj Commission (NAHCON) has revealed that 46,000 out of the 95,000 slots given to Nigeria for the 2024 pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia have been unable to pay their fares and other charges for the 2024 hajj (https://leadership.ng/hajj-2024-46000-intending-pilgrims-yet-to-make-full-payment/#google_vignette). No responsible government anywhere in the world will ignore the plight of such a large number of its citizens under such a vulnerable and unpredictable condition. Tinubu’s intervention is therefore in order.

 

“By the way, it was not as if Tinubu played Father Christmas with the N90 billion subsidy because the actual amount needed to bail out the pilgrims was N230 billion. Many stakeholders, including the House of Representatives, appealed to the president to intervene in the matter of 2024 intending pilgrims before he made the move. Yet Tinubu did not pay the whole amount.  (https://dailytrust.com/subsidise-hajj-fare-for-intending-pilgrims-reps-tell-fg/).

 

“He did not even pay half of it. At least no mathematical abracadabra can make N90 billion one half of N230 billion. That explains why NAHCON has been appealing to state governments and other stakeholders to come up with the balance. As a result of NAHCON’s appeal, Kano, Kebbi, Kogi and a few others have added their widow’s mite.

 

“Those criticizing Tinubu’s hajj subsidy conveniently suffered collective amnesia as they elected to ignore the 2023 Christmas rice subsidy of N100 million to every honourable member of the House of Representatives (360 of them) and N200 million to every senator (109) for same. The total amount for the rice subsidy was N57.8 billion (https://dailytrust.com/tinubus-n57-8bn-rice-palliative-raises-dust/).

 

“But if they missed the Christmas rice subsidies, were they on sabbatical when Tinubu rolled out the Buhari trains gratis to subsidise the transport fares of Nigerians travelling during the 2023 Christmas? The free train rides were announced on 20th December and the exercise took off the next day. Though planned to last till 4th January, FG extended the boom for another week. Why have they forgotten so soon when Christmas was just three months ago? (https://leadership.ng/christmas-as-travellers-enjoy-50-slashed-fares-on-22-routes-free-train-rides/).

 

“We can all imagine what the free train rides cost the Federal Government in three weeks if we go by what the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) makes every quarter. It is on record that NRC generated N768.44 million from passengers in the first quarter of 2023, N1.10 billion in Quarter 2 and 1.48 billion in the third quarter (https://www.thecable.ng/nbs-nrc-generated-n4-2bn-from-train-services-in-nine-months/).

 

“However, the revenue fell to a paltry N1.07 billion in quarter 4 (https://dailypost.ng/2024/04/02/nrc-generated-n1-07bn-in-fourth-quarter-of-2023-nbs/). It is noteworthy that FG’s free train ride during Christmas which of course translates to Christmas transport subsidy occurred in quarter 4 and it was directly responsible for the fall in revenue.

 

“Besides the Christmas rice subsidy and free train rides, Tinubu also ordered the slashing of the transport fares of travellers on 22 routes using private commercial buses by 50% (https://tribuneonlineng.com/yuletide-tinubu-slashes-christmas-bus-transport-cost-by-50/).

 

“Has any of the armchair critics taken the time off to estimate the humongous cost implication of the Christmas subsidies? No, their eyes are always fixated on ensuring that nothing goes to the Muslims. But are Muslim pilgrims not Nigerians?furore,hajj,subsidy

 

“Assuming that we remove the cost of the Christmas rice subsidy which was N57.8 billion, that of the Christmas free train and that of the Christmas 50% rebate on commercial buses, what, for crying out loud, would remain of the N90 billion hajj subsidy for which idle critics now want to bring down the sky? Wouldn’t Nigerian Muslims be asking for a balance payment?

 

“The criticism of Tinubu over the hajj subsidy policy is spiced with bad blood, garnished with toxic faith and served with tramadolised religiousity. It is short in objectivity but long in acrobatic religiousity.”

 

#Hajj2024

#HajjSubsidy

#LikeChristmasSubsidyLikeHajjSubsidy

 

Professor Ishaq Akintola,

Executive Director,

Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC).

 

Subscribe ToUpdates Via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to MURIC website and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 5,615 other subscribers