Should Nigeria Pay Billions In Waivers To Sponsors Pilgrims’ Hajj?


“Nigeria’s government will offer a concessionary exchange rate to more than 65,000 Muslim citizens intending to make the pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia this year, even as the country turns to borrowing to plug a budget gap”., Bloomberg said Saturday.

The Central Bank of Nigeria “issued a circular instructing commercial banks to sell dollars to Pilgrims going to the Hajj at an exchange rate of N197.” The apex bank explained “that the sale of the forex will be funneled through commercial banks who are then mandated to sell to pilgrims at N197. Pilgrims are expected to purchase a minimum of $750 and a maximum of $1000 per pilgrim.”

The interbank rate is about N320/USD and the exchange rate is almost 400 in the black market. It would cost Nigeria an estimated N7.9 billion ($25 million) to subsidize the dollars for about 70,000 pilgrims. Last year President BUhari had made waves when he promised to stop sponsoring hajj for Muslims and Christians.

The Insult In FGN’s Denial of Forex “Waiver”

The government as could be expected and has been typical, denied it gave a waiver on forex. “FG has not given foreign exchange waiver to pilgrims – Hajj Commission,” Vanguard published Sunday.

In the denial, the commission described that “what the government did for the Nigerian pilgrim was to allow the exchange rate prevalent at the time of payment of Hajj fare in February when the current flexible exchange rate was not in action to subsist.” Further stating that it was “therefore wrong and mischievous for some persons or media organisations to peddle unfounded claims that the Federal Government gave the Nigerian pilgrims a waiver.

1. It’s an insult on our collective intelligence

Not only did the Federal government make attempt to deny it was giving a foreign exchange waiver to Muslim pilgrims, but the federal government went further to insult the intelligence and character of the billions in Nigeria and abroad who recognized the forex waiver for what it is: a foreign exchange waiver and Federal government commitment of billions of Naira in sponsorship of 2016 personal hajj spiritual adventure.

It is unfair, and annoying for the government to insult those who object to and criticize its conduct, as “mischievous” and with other debasing words.  This pattern has been seen with the intentional attempts to mislead Nigerians when fuel was thrown to black market sourced dollars and the government attempted to obfuscate the masses into believing the already removed subsidy was again removed. The pattern of insulting the masses has continued by arms of the government as a means of defense from varieties of government actions of incompetence to frank brutality. Cases of the alleged defense of the former DHQ Procurement chief and current army chief on property and cash acquisition, to insults at the masses and media during the FGN and NASS budget padding media-exposed incidents and other insults tossed at the masses when many anti-corruption failures and broken campaign promises are of note. The government must learn to be truthful and honest as a best PR tactic and respect the masses and their collective intelligence.

2. There is no such provision under the constitution or CBN regulations

There is no provision in the constitution and there was no provision in the floating of the Naira that provides for the government to sponsor or subsidize business or religious commitments of citizens or agencies made before the forex devaluation.

Let’s give a simple example: if a particular Nigerian had deposited $10,000 out of a total import cost of $15,000, in the US for the purchase of a car this February while the CBN dollar rate was still $197. Will Godwin Emefiele and the Presidency provide that individual the balance of $5000 to import his car since he made that commitment in February at the time the pilgrims allegedly bought their tickets?

3. Pilgrims should not even have been subsidized with CBN dollars in February either

There is no justification for the government to have claimed that citizens were expected to have been subsidized with the CBN 197 rate dollars for pilgrimage in February had the Naira not been devalued. Even then, Muslim and Christian pilgrims were expected to buy dollars for their journey at the black market rate. Not only did President Buhari assert that he will not sponsor pilgrimage among his apparent broken promises, but also, with the prevailing economic hardship and recession, the president while speaking to Al Jazeera before the devaluation, stated that only essentials will get CBN rate dollars. Is personal hajj spiritual adventure such a priority and essential? So the February rate claim is without basis and inapplicable even in February.

Buhari’s Religio-Political Games Attempt To Rip-Off The Spiritual Yield Of Hajj 2016

Pilgrimage Is Personal Business: President Buhari was reasonable and responsible when he promised not to sponsor pilgrimage. His reneging on of his promise is not only a major disappointment but with the new lies and games the pilgrims are inadvertently being exposed and involved in, this attempts to corrupt the spiritual mission of the pilgrims. Pilgrims should never be involved in government injustice, corruption, lies or political machinations.

With the acceptance and blessing of Nigerians ONLY can Nigeria subsidize dollars for pilgrims. Being compelled to support a presidency that reneges on its promises and to be benefactors of such violation puts the pilgrims in a bad situation.

Allah(s) Would Have Still Given The Pilgrims The Blessing If They Could Not Afford It

The attempt by the Hajj Commission to cheat the intelligence of the masses by claiming the pilgrims were entitled to pre-devaluation  CBN-rate dollars and government subsidized dollars not only from the CBN, but at a rate from February passed, is corruption and an involvement of the pilgrims in this. Islam clearly gives blessing for pilgrimage based on intention. If the dollar rate changed for all Nigerians since intention was made, and certain people can no longer afford the hajj, then Allah(s) in His ultimate Mercy will still give them the blessing.

Pilgrims Beware: “Corrupt” Government Funding May Taint Hajj Blessing

The fifth pillar of Islam recommends pilgrimage only for those who can afford it, and the Holy Quran sanctions going on a pilgrimage only through hard and honestly earned funding.

The Quran categorically prohibits Hajj pilgrimage on unethical fiscal support. Where the federal government of a secular nation, breaks its oaths and commitments, violates the constitution and plays unethical games to illegally commit state funds to fund hajj trips, the pilgrimage becomes spiritually shaky.

Government subsidy funding of hajj includes tax-collected by the government from unknown and unsanctified revenue sources, some collected is from illicit businesses in an Islamic religious sense (like liquor sales and gambling). Such money of course included in pilgrims’ subsidy will taint the pilgrimage from a spiritual point, just like a drop of urine does to a bowl of milk.

Who Else Does Emefiele Give Pre-Devaluation 197 Rate CBN Dollars?

Who else is Godwin Emefiele still honoring with pre-devaluation rate CBN 197 dollars? Is he likewise using his “judgement” to do so for some cabal, as he uses it in alleged nepotistic recruitment? On what premise and by what constitutional justification does Emefiele choose who to subsidize with the 197 rate dollar? Why was 197 chosen and not 111 or 234? So for cabal who the government promised access to dollars in 2014, say at a time when dollars was 160, is Emefiele likewise honoring the promise by authorizing commercial banks to sell them dollars for their refineries and other private projects at 197 or 160 preferential rates?

Godwin Emefiele is in many ways identical to Erdogan of Turkey. He is corrupt, authoritarian and an evil emperor. Godwin is always at the center of mischievous and serpentine government regulations that end up crippling the economy and masses. His decisions always enable corruption, like this latest one which will again allow an unfair advantage for a few and encourage round-tripping of dollars through his friends and others.

What part of “one exchange rate for all” and at all times, to allay corruption and injustice does Godwin not understand?

Millions Of Displaced Persons Dying Of Hunger

When millions of displaced persons are dying in Borno from malnutrition due to all stages of failure of government to provide and secure the provision of food items to the victims of Boko Haram, is this not a time for better and more compassionate government investment and sacrifice as its sworn obligations to protect the lives and livelihood of its people detail; rather than make politico-religious unethical donations that end up interfering with and possibly violating personal spiritual journeys of its citizens? Should all Nigerians rather not sacrifice to help feed starving and dying IDPs?

We call on President Muhammadu Buhari to honor one or the other if not all three: either honor his promises, honor the laws of God for equality, equity, fairness and justice, or honor the Nigerian constitution.

Dr. Peregrino Brimah; @EveryNigerian