Hajj 2016: Nigerian govt defends FOREX Waiver for Pilgrims
The federal government has rationalised its decision to grant prospective Muslims that will perform the 2016 Hajj ritual in Saudi Arabia a foreign exchange concession.
A nationwide outcry had trailed the foreign exchange waiver of N197 to a dollar granted to the pilgrims as against the existing flexible rate of N400 to a dollar in the open market.
Abdulahi Muktah from the presidency said on Tuesday at sixth edition of the Town Hall meeting in Abuja that preparation for hajj is a process that takes four to five months, adding that pilgrims had been mandated since March to make payment for the exercise as at the time the new policy of dual exchange rate was not in existence.
Muktah said there was a discussion with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on March 18 where the case on the need to alleviate and remove the subsidy by government was made.
He said it was consequently resolved that government be allowed to apply the then prevailing exchange rate without putting any financial burden on it.
“I think it is very important to clarify this matter. The issue is that the hajj usually takes four to five months to prepare, not something you rush through overnight. We wrote a memo to government and I want to read the contents: ‘In view of the global economic realities and the need to take off the financial burden of providing the concessionary rate on government, the commission has sensitised the state boards at two different meetings held on January 11 and March 12 over the challenges of enjoying concessionary exchange rates for hajj transaction which was first agreed that it was unrealistic at this material time, therefore, the commission is considerably sensitive to limit its request to government for the use of the prevailing exchange rate of N197 to a dollar for hajj 2016 related component.’’
He insisted that the transaction was concluded by the end of March by when pilgrims had already complied with the directives to pay to the hajj fares into CBN account at N197 to a dollar.