The Senate on Thursday urged the Federal Government to give N200 to dollar concession to the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) and the Nigeria Christian Pilgrims Commission (NCPC) once in every year.
It said that it was for pilgrimages to the respective holy lands for Muslims and Christians.
This was part of the recommendations by the Committee on Foreign Affairs on “The Extortion of Pilgrims by the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria’’ presented by the Chairman, Sen. Monsurat Sunmonu, at plenary.
The committee recommended the concession to bring down the cost of the pilgrimages to bearable level.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that the Senate had in a motion on June 7, urged the Federal Government to review downwards, the 2017 Hajj fare.
Part of the 10-point recommendation by the committee was that the Federal Government should hold discussions with Saudi Arabia authorities.
Sunmonu said that the consultation with the Saudi government was to review the 50-50 carriage of pilgrims between Nigeria and Saudi Arabian airlines.
“This is with a view to providing opportunities for more indigenous Nigerian airlines to participate in the Hajj operations. This will give Nigeria varieties in choosing the air carrier.
“The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria should expedite action on the establishment of Hajj Savings Schemes in compliance with Section 7(1 and 2) of the NAHCON Act.
“The Nigeria Government and its economic team must do everything possible to improve on the Nigerian monetary policy which would guarantee a long-time stable relationship of the Naira with other currencies,” she said.
Sunmonu noted that 98 per cent of the entire Hajj operations were dollars-denominated with only two per cent as naira content.
In his contribution, Sen. Ali Wakil (APC-Bauchi) said that there was need for an ad hoc committee to look into the matter of feeding and transportation of the pilgrims.
He called for the restoration of Amirul Hajj to serve as checks and balance between Nigeria and Saudi.
In his remarks, the President of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki, said “we passed the 2017-2019 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and based on it, we have passed what should be the exchange rate which is N305 to a dollar.
“We should make laws that are truly going to guide our people because we have MTEF which says the exchange is N305.
“If with passing MTEF nobody should be given N200, but businessmen are getting N200, then, definitely pilgrims deserve N200 as well,” he said.
Saraki said that the Senate must put an end to the money-making venture, because pilgrimage was a religious activity and should not be for money-making.
“We will put an end to these leakages,’’ he stated.
The Senate accepted the recommendations but rejected the one requesting NAHCON to ensure improved feeding for Nigerian contingents to all designated points, insisting that feeding should be left to the pilgrims.