By Peter Egwuatu
The Federal Government is to subsidise this year’s Hajj pilgrims with a maximum of N7.9 billion (N7,944,508,970) as against N2. 4 billion (N2,442,000,000) of the previous year, representing a growth of 225.3 per cent.
Vanguard’s findings revealed that with total Hajj pilgrims of 65,167 for the year 2016 as published by the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN and a maximum of $1000.00 per pilgrim, the total foreign exchange entitled to the pilgrims amounted to sixty five million, one hundred and sixty seven thousand dollars ($65,167,000).
Therefore, when $ 65,167,000 is multiplied with the difference between the Foreign Exchange, (Forex) market (N318.9 per dollar ) and the concessionary exchange rate of ( N197 per dollar), that is N121.91 per dollar, it would amount to N7.9 billion (N7,944,508,970) , while with a minimum of $750 per dollar for each pilgrim, it would amount to N5.9 billion ( N5, 958,381,727).
It should be noted that in 2015, the Federal Government subsidised the Hajj prigrims with N37.00 per dollar as the official exchange rate was N197 per dollar, while the pilgrims were offered $160 per dollar. Therefore, in 2015, the Federal Government would have subsidised the Hajj pilgrims with N2. 4 billion (N2,442,000,000).
Further findings on the 2016 pilgrims for the top ten states showed that Kano state with total pilgrims of 5,808 had the highest entitlement with subsidy of N708,053 million followed by Kaduna state with 5,649 pilgrims with subsidy of N688.6 million.
Others are Sokoto State 5000 pilgrims with subsidy of N609.5 million; Katsina state 4,598 pilgrims with N560.542 million; Kebbi state 4,107 pilgrims with N500.684 million, Niger state 3,226 with subsidy of N393.281 million; Abuja (FCT) 2,975 pilgrims with N362.682 million; Bauchi State 2789 pilgrims with N430.006 million; Borno state 2581 pilgrims with N314,649 million and Jigawa 2,405 with N293.193 million.
They are to purchase a minimum of $750.00 and a maximum of $ 1,000.00 as Purchase of Pilgrims Travelling Allowance, PTA.
The CBN in a circular issued on Thursday to all Authorised Dealers and General public, signed by Acting Director, Trade & Exchange Department, W.D Gotring stated that the Federal Government has approved that intending pilgrims are to be sold the PTA at a concessionary exchange rate of N197.00 to the US dollar.
According to the circular “No commission shall be charged by the banks for the sale of PTA to the intending pilgrims; The CBN shall sale the PTA to the designated banks in Lagos and Abuja and the accounts of the respective banks shall be debited as soon as the funds are disbursed.”
The CBN further said, “Each designated bank is required to sell to the CBN the unutilised funds not later than two weeks from the date of the last inward flight to Nigeria from Jedda, while the accounts of the banks shall be credited promptly.”
The apex bank further noted that “The approved schedule showing the distribution of the pilgrims expected to perform the 2016 Hajj and the designated banks that will handle the sales of the PTA to the pilgrims in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT ,each states state of the federation , the Armed Forces and the National Hajj Commission Headquarters , is stated for guidance.