Sheik Ahmed Tsoho-Ikara, Executive Secretary, Kaduna State Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Board, on Tuesday said only 1, 500 intending pilgrims, representing 22.62 per cent, have made part payment for the 2018 Hajj in the state.
Tsoho-Ikara, who made the disclosure in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Zaria, said that the state has been allocated 6.632 seats by the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) for the pilgrimage.
According to him, the board still has over 5,000 seats for those wishing to travel for the pilgrimage before the closure of registration on March 31.
“We have started receiving the deposit since Nov. 13, 2017 and like any other Hajj operation, this year’s Hajj started with low patronage.
“About 6,632 seats were allocated to Kaduna State by NAHCON but because of lack of funds in the hands of Nigerians very few number of intending pilgrims registered.
“We are already in March, but so far only 1,500 intending pilgrims indicated interest by depositing their money and not all of them deposited in full.
“Of those that deposited, not all of them completed the stipulated deposit of N1.5 million because some have deposited money ranging from N800,000 to N1.2 million and yet to complete the balance,” he said.
He noted that even among those that deposited the money, not all of them may have the financial strength or capability to complete the full Hajj fare when finally announced by NAHCON.
“It had become a tradition, whenever NAHCON finally fixes the Hajj fare, some intending pilgrims that deposited their money used to default.
“This is not because they don’t want to pay but because they don’t have the financial capacity to complete the remaining balance.
“Our prayer is, may Allah (SWT) bestow his blessings upon all of us to enable us and the intending pilgrims exhaust the seats and request for more,” he prayed.
Tsoho-Ikara attributed the low patronage to low prices of farm produce, unstable exchange rate and poor financial status of many people.
“The problems associated with this year’s Hajj are low prices of farm produce and another problem is the decision of the National Assembly that last year’s Hajj fare was high and it need to be reviewed down.
“This discussion came up when NAHCON announced the Hajj fare at N1.5 million, they said it was unacceptable, government need to come in and assist, reduce it to around N800,000.
“This discussion made some intending pilgrims especially those that deposited their money thought that what they have deposited was over and money will be refunded to them.
“Up to this time, nothing had been done in respect of the issue.
“I want to use this medium to appeal to the Federal Government to assist both Muslim and Christian pilgrims in their efforts to fulfil their religious rights.”
On the board’s preparation for the Hajj, the official said: “we have visited Saudi Arabia, inspected houses that will accommodate our people.
“NAHCON had rented houses in the city of Medina while the state pilgrims’ boards have rented houses in Mecca.
“We have also discussed with food companies that will supply our pilgrims with food, the food is not free, the money is included in the Hajj fare and it covers breakfast and dinner in Mecca and Medina as well as breakfast, lunch and dinner in Muna and Arafat.
“The state pilgrims boards are saddled with responsibility of contracting the companies that will supply food to pilgrims in Mecca, Muna and Arafat and we have completed that.”