HomeHajjHajj 2024: Uproar as Lagos pilgrims protest over $400 BTA

Hajj 2024: Uproar as Lagos pilgrims protest over $400 BTA

*It’s $500, NAHCON insists *As Commission airlifts 16,088 in nine days *Kogi, Oyo, Nasarawa, Armed Forces conclude airlifting of pilgrims

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was uproar yesterday at the Murtala Muhammad International airport wing, Lagos as 428 air-bound pilgrims from Lagos state protested the reduction of their Basic Travelling Allowance, BTA from $500 to $400.

This was just as Kogi, Oyo, Nasarawa states and Armed Forces have completed airlifting of their pilgrims to Saudi Arabia for the pilgrimage.

According to the data shared by the Command and Control of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria, NAHCON, a total of 16,088 pilgrims have been airlifted in 38 flights.  Out of the number, over 8,500 are already in Makkah while others are presently in Madinah.  The latest departure as at the time of writing this report was MaxAir flight NGL3073 departing Kaduna to Madinah at 18:31hrs with 550 Kaduna Pilgrims and 10 Officials.

Also, making up the current airlifted pilgrims are the 428 Lagos pilgrims airlifted yesterday aboard Flynas Flight XY8060. They arrived Madinah Thursday.

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The Lagos State Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Board confirmed their arrival at the King Abdulaziz International Airport, Madinah at 9.46 am (Saudi Arabian time), 11:46am.

According to the board, “On board the Flynas airline flight number XY 8060 and registration number PK-LEI which departed the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Ikeja, Lagos at 4.56am today were 205 males and 223 females respectively.

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READ ALSO: Hajj 2024: We’ll serve good, healthy Nigerian dishes, food companies vows

Hon. Commissioner for Home Affairs, Hon. Olanrewaju Ibrahim Layode who led the Board Secretary, Mr. Saheed Onipede and other officials to bid the pilgrims farewell, announced that each of them is entitled to 400 US dollars as Basic Travelling Allowance (BTA). The announcement sparked uproar and was vehemently protested by the pilgrims who described the new development as unfair and unacceptable, stressing that since some of them had already collected $500 cash before departure, theirs should not be different.

Reacting to the protest, Hon. Layode appealed for patience, explaining that the deduction was not the decision of Lagos State but that of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) and Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). He added that the reason for the deduction cannot be unconnected with the unstable forex exchange rates.

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The Amir-ul-Hajj who affirmed that the BTA is their right and legitimate earning, urged them to remain calm and collect the $400 given to them at the moment while awaiting the resolution by both NAHCON and CBN on the latest development. He assured them that if the two Federal Government agencies resolved to return the balance of $100, the state government would not hesitate to refund them accordingly.

Hon. Layode assured the pilgrims that the promises made by Governor Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu during the One-Day Seminar to pay for their sacrificial rams, Ihram clothes and ziyyarah (visitation) to historical sites both in Makkah and Madinah is still intact and shall be fulfilled.

He later distributed the $400 cash to each of the pilgrim before boarding their flight enroute Madinah. He also admonished them to be cautious of their conduct while in the holy land and avoid anything that could bring the state and county at large to disrepute.

Recall that airlifting of the state’s pilgrims commenced on Friday, May 17, 2024, followed by the second batch on Saturday, May 18. There was a brief break to give room for other states from the South to airlift their pilgrims. The resumption today, of airlifting with the 3rd batch would run back to back until the last batch is airlifted on Friday, May 24, 2024.

Meanwhile, in a statement issued earlier by Hajia Fatima Usara, Assistant Director, Public Affairs, NAHCON said the challenge of the BTA had been resolved and each pilgrim was entitled to $500.

The statement reads in part: “In another development, the initial challenge in the issuance of Basic Travel allowance to pilgrims has been resolved. Each pilgrim is now entitled to $500 cash as BTA as approved by NAHCON in place of a credit card,” NAHCON said.

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