Figures of the 2019 Hajj Fares started emerging last week with the announcement by Yobe State of N1,522,475 for the average Nigerian and especially the intending pilgrim, long-awaited information is now available. While some were irked that the fares are on the high side, some had a sigh of relief as they were below the widely-publicized N1.8 million a few months back.
Behind each figure is a story that the public needs to hear. This article seeks to give a cockpit-view of the 2019 Hajj fares computation process and later juxtapose Nigeria’s Hajj fares with those of some select countries and allow the reader to make his or her conclusions. The process goes like this:
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which by the special grace of Allah SWT, is the sole host of Hajj and Umrah, sets the framework for every Hajj exercise which is captured in the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) usually signed between Nigeria and Saudi Arabia. The MoU for 2019 Hajj was signed between Nigeria and Saudi Arabia on 12th December 2018. This kick-started all other processes and arrangements required for the computation of the cost of Hajj for the year 2019.
After the signing, the Commission led representatives of State Pilgrims Welfare Boards, Travel Agencies, Nigeria’s Foreign missions in Saudi Arabia and representatives of the National Assembly to discuss with the various Saudi Agencies in charge of various aspects of the Hajj namely, The United Agents Office, The Establishment of Mutawwifs for Pilgrims from African non-Arab Countries in Makkah, The General Car Syndicate and the National Adillah Establishment in Madina. All these agencies are responsible for various components of the Hajj where they fix prices for some services while others are negotiated upon except the Adillah Establishment which has no charges for its services.
Accommodation and Catering Service Providers are also pre-qualified and licensed for various SPWBs to choose from. All these were concluded between December 12th, 2018 and 15th January 2019.
Back home in Nigeria, Airlines were selected in like manner. The Commission together with representatives SPWBs, Federal Aviation Agencies and anti-graft agencies all participated in the prequalification of carriers and subsequently, determination of the fares to be charged for airlift was done in consultation with the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority NCAA. State Pilgrims Welfare Boards also appear before the Commission present and discuss their local charges. While all these were on-going, President Muhammadu Buhari approved the exchange rate of NGN306 to USD1 to be used in the computation of the 2019 Hajj fares.
To put things into proper perspective, it is pertinent to give an overview of the components making the 2019 Hajj fare. The fare comprises of 21 items. Some of the Items are determined by the Saudi Government for the entire world. Some are agreed upon with Saudi Agencies or service providers depending on services chosen for pilgrims both in Saudi Arabia and Nigeria. For the purpose of this exercise, I shall use the fares for Adamawa State.
The component with the highest share is the airfare of $1,500 (N459,000) which constitutes 30.4% of the total package. Next is pilgrims’ accommodation in Makkah and Madinah of $1,260 (385,695) which constitute 25.5% of the fare. All services to be rendered by Saudi Agencies which include Land transportation, Minna and Arafat Tent and ancillary services as well as Ministry of Hajj Deposit are third in this ranking being $864.9 (N264,647) comprising of 17.5%; The Pilgrims’ Basic Travel Allowance of $800 (N244,800) constitutes 16.3%; Feeding in Makkah, Madina, Masha’er and the Jeddah airport, $370 (113,076) constitutes another 7.5% while all local charges comprising of the pilgrim’s suitcase, uniform, various admin charges and levies are the smallest part constituting $140 (N42,889) being 2.8%.
It is interesting to note here that the Dollar Component of the fares gulps a whopping $4,834 (N1,479,442) 97.9% hence the dramatic effect of any shift in exchange rates on the final fares announced. An example of this is clear when the airfare of 2009 and 2019 are compared. In 2009, the airfare was $1,500. Ten years later in 2019, the airfares remain the same. Yet, while pilgrims paid N202,500 in 2009, they are paying the sum of N459,000 in 2019. This is so because the exchange rate moved from N135 to $1 in 2009 to N306 in 2019.
A five-year comparison of Hajj fares as shown in the charts above indicate how the exchange rates have affected the fares. It also shows the efforts in NAHCON’s management of Hajj fares. The USD components of the Hajj fares peaked in 2016 when the Commission opted to accommodate 100% of its pilgrims in Markaziyya area of Madina while the Dollar appreciated against the Naira by 23% moving from 160 to 197. It should be noted also that the Commission successfully managed the USD component between 2016 and 2018 where a consistent reduction was achieved as a result of numerous belt-tightening measures adopted by NAHCON in managing the fares.
A comparison of the 2018 and 2019 Hajj fares indicates that the Commission was able to maintain or reduce all components within its jurisdiction. The Airfare and cost of pilgrims’ feeding were maintained; The cost of pilgrims accommodation was reduced and likewise, the local components were also managed or reduced. All these efforts, however, were consumed by the 69% increase of land transportation from $360 in 2018 to $610 in 2019 as can be seen in the table below.
How do Nigeria’s Hajj fares compare with that of other countries? The fares of each country are determined by many factors some of which are the relationship of its currency to the USD, its country or regional trade relations with Saudi Arabia and Government policies. In Africa, Nigeria’s neighbour the Niger Republic charges $3,939 while Ghana charges $3,500. The fares for the Gambia starts from $5,034. These are however countries with small pilgrims population (less than 10,000). Indonesia charged $2,632 in 2018 while its neighbours Brunei, Singapore and Malaysia charge $8,980, $5,232 and $2,557 respectively.
In 2018, Pakistan had charged $1,856 under Government. In 2019 However, it charged the sum of $2,880 with packages for Travel Agencies having a minimum of $4,046. Like the case in Nigeria, the 2019 Hajj fares in Pakistan caused a public outcry as the country experienced a 60% increase in Hajj fares from 2018 due to three reasons: A 37% currency devaluation and the removal of Hajj subsidy by Government and increase in transportation fares by Saudi Arabia.
Different strokes for different folks best describes the 2019 Hajj fares both within Nigeria and among the 184 countries involved in the exercise from all parts of the globe. Despite the 69% increase in transportation fares, the fact that Nigeria was able to keep the fare increase below 7% is no mean feat.
Jae can be reached through email@example.com