Economy affecting responses to 2017 Hajj
The Lagos State Pilgrims Welfare Board has described as “slow,’’ the response of intending pilgrims to the 2017 hajj exercise in the state.
MrMuftau Okoya, Executive Secretary of the Board disclosed this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria on Friday in Lagos.
Okoya said that difficulties in the economy could be responsible for the slow response.
“We had a seat allocation of 3964, but till now, we have less than 2000 intending pilgrims that have registered with us.
“I think the present economic recession is largely responsible for the slow response, and we can only pray for things to improve.
“We airlifted 2218 pilgrims in 2016, hoping to record considerable improvement this year, but the response has not been too encouraging. We hope it will pick up before the May 31 deadline,’’ he said.
Okoya said that an allocation of 3964 seats was initially given to the state by the National Hajj Commission (NAHCON), but had to be reduced by 1200 seats.
“NAHCON initially allocated 3964 seats to Lagos State but due to slow response, and demand for more seats by some states, we had to reduce our number by 1200 seats.
“We are now targeting 2,500 pilgrims for the 2017 hajj operation,’’ he said.
The Executive Secretary added that the decision of the state government not to get involved in pilgrimages also had an effect.
“You know, religion is largely personal, and since 2015, the Lagos state government has not been involve in sponsorship of both Christian and Muslim pilgrims.
“The state has saved about N2.4billion from this policy, and that money has gone into the provision of infrastructure.
“That is why you see the state government commissioning so many projects at the same time,’’ he said.
Okoya called on interested Muslims to also take advantage of the monthly Umrah (lesser hajj) service of the board.
“Muslims interested in going for the Umrah, particularly in the month of Ramadan, should also take advantage of our monthly Umrah services,’’ he said.
Okoya thanked the federal government for approving a concessionary foreign exchange rate of N305 to the dollar for a maximum of N1000 per pilgrim as Basic Travelling Allowance (BTA).
He urged all intending pilgrims to pray for the country and its government for increased peace and prosperity during the spiritual exercise.
“That concession will go a long way to alleviating the burden of sourcing dollars for the BTA.
“The pilgrims should go with the intention of praying for peace and prosperity of our dear country so that things can improve fast,’’ he added.