N24bn Hajj subsidy: The facts 

“Just because something isn’t a lie does not mean that it isn’t deceptive. A liar knows that he is a liar, but one who speaks mere portions of truth in order to deceive is a craftsman of destruction.” ― Criss Jami

Curiosity got a better part of me after reading a story published by Punch Newspaper titled “NAHCON Denies N24 billion Hajj Subsidy”. 

I mai inquiries to know the facts behind the obvious sentiment-induced headline.

First, the approval is to settle 2023 Hajj airlift liabilities. It is not a Hajj subsidy but an outstanding payment to 2023 Hajj Air carriers due to differentials in the exchange rate approved when the airlift contract was signed and when the last tranche of payment was due.  

Before the 2023 Hajj, the federal government approved an exchange rate of N460 to a dollar for Nigerian pilgrims. The 2023 Hajj fare including air tickets were computed based on the approved rate. When it was time for payment to airlines, the exchange rate rose to N750 to a dollar after government floated forex. The then CBN governor refused to pay the airlines because the dollar increase.

The question is: who is to settle the airlines’ differences because the pilgrims had paid their Hajj fares based on government-approved exchange rate and had returned home after performing the hajj? 

The then NAHCON board insisted that CBN should honour the discount and fill in the gaps. This has been in the public domain. After a series of arguments and reconciliation, the present administration accepted to pay the airlines the dollar equivalent of what is obtained in their contractual agreement with NAHCON before 2023 hajj. 

It is important to understand that Nigerian Hajj pilgrims had paid for the naira equivalent then. So, what is the underlying motive behind the screaming headline that the government of President Bola Tinubu has approved N24 billion for Nigeria’s Hajj pilgrims? The said N24 billion is the differential between the approved dollar rate then and the current dollar rate.

Commendably, the Tinubu government was magnanimous in settling the former agreement that was entered before the commencement of the 2023 Hajj. Leaking government’s documents to activate religious sentiments and biases will serve no one any good.  

The newspaper report also said NAHCON denied the approval, which is another issue of twisted story. It said the deputy director said he was not aware of such information and that NAHCON chairman will address the press on the issue. This is not a denial by NAHCON. 

We should be wary of half-truths and twisted stories.

Ibrahim Muhammed,

National Coordinator,

Independent Hajj Reporters