NAHCON Clarifies $100 Payment for Hajj Pilgrimage Amid Sudan Airspace Closure
By Alabidun Shuaib AbdulRahman
The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) has responded to recent reports regarding an extra payment of $100 for this year’s Hajj pilgrimage.
Mousa Ubandawaki, Deputy Director of Information & Publications at NAHCON, clarified that the additional payment is necessary due to the ongoing Sudan crisis, which has resulted in the closure of Sudan’s airspace for security reasons.
Ubandawaki explained that the closure of Sudan’s airspace has forced them to reroute all Hajj airlift flights through alternative paths.
These alternative routes, which vary in duration from 1 hour 40 minutes to 3 hours longer depending on departure points in Nigeria, require the carriers to fly through the airspace of Cameroon, Central African Republic (CAR), Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Eritrea. Consequently, there are additional costs for aviation fuel and overflight charges.
To address the increased expenses of $250 for the airlines, NAHCON conducted a thorough review of various funding options.
The commission engaged in extensive discussions and meetings with the airlines, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), and the State Pilgrims Welfare Boards to find a swift resolution to the issue.
Ubandawaki outlined NAHCON’s resolution as follows:
I. The Commission appealed to the Federal Government to waive the remaining 35% of aviation charges, totaling $55, in favour of the airlines. This waiver aims to alleviate the burden of additional airfare costs for Nigerian pilgrims. The government had already waived 65% of the aviation charges initially to reduce the overall cost of Hajj. As a result, the negotiated additional amount of $250 with the airlines will be reduced by $55.
II. The remaining liability of $195 will be borne by the 75,000 pilgrims, amounting to approximately $117 per pilgrim.
III. To offset the $117 without imposing further financial obligations on the pilgrims, the Commission has decided to reduce the Basic Travelling Allowance (BTA) for 2023 Hajj Pilgrims from $800 to $700. This reduction has already been included in the Hajj package and has been paid by the pilgrims.
IV. Regarding the remaining $17, NAHCON has requested the air carriers to provide it as an additional discount to Nigerian Pilgrims, who are also affected by the closure of the Sudanese airspace.
Ubandawaki emphasised that if Sudan’s airspace is cleared for normal flights before or during the airlift operations, appropriate refunds will be made to the pilgrims.
The statement emphasised that the circulating news regarding the additional charges was a misrepresentation of facts.
Ubandawaki assured the public that the Commission is committed to never exploiting the pilgrims and reiterated their dedication to providing maximum support and cooperation to both the media and the pilgrims by offering accurate information.