Confusion over Tinubu’s N24bn FX subsidy approval for Muslim pilgrimage amid hardship

There is confusion as President Bola Ahmed Tinubu allegedly approved the release of N24,143 billion as a subsidy for the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria, NAHCON, to settle foreign exchange differential for intending Muslim pilgrims.


In a trending document dated October 19 2023, the Office of Vice President, Kasim Shettima had allegedly conveyed the approval of N24,143 billion being the differential that occurred in the FX exchange rate midway through the hajj exercise, which affected payment to air carriers.


Also, in a follow-up letter dated December 11 2023, the Minister of Finance, Olawale Edun, had allegedly said that the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation recommended for the approved funds, ‘to be sourced from 15 percent wheat grain levy pool account no 0020258341106’.


The development had raised an uproar among some Nigerians on the rationale behind the payment for pilgrimage amid the hardship and hunger caused by the high food prices among citizens.


Meanwhile, Mousa Ubandawaki, Deputy Director of Information and Publication at NAHCON, claimed he was unaware of any such approvals from the presidency.


He, however, said the Chairman of the Commission, Jalal Ahmad Arabi, will address the matter in a briefing on Monday.


“I am not aware. There is nothing like that. The Chairman will soon brief the public”, he said.


Arabi was appointed as Chairman of NAHCON on October 19 by the President, and his substantive tenure started on January 17, 2024.


Recall that in a statement issued on February 3, 2024, NAHCON had announced final prices for the Hajj trip, quoting the sum of N4,899,000 for southern pilgrims and N4,699,000 for pilgrims in the north, while pilgrims from Yola and Maiduguri centres were asked to pay a fee of N4,679,000 for the 2024 Hajj.


The deadline for registration for intending pilgrims from the 36 states, Federal Capital Territory and private tour operators elapsed last week, February 12, 2024.


It was gathered that since the Central Bank of Nigeria introduced ‘Financial Markets Price Transparency and Market Notice of a Revision to the FMDQ FX Market Rate Pricing Methodology’ and other reforms on January 29, the country’s exchange rate hovers around N1,400 to over 1,500 per US dollar from N900 on January 26.


On Friday, the Naira traded at N1,537.96 per US dollar, according to FMDQ data.

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