The Independent Hajj Reporters, a civil society organisation responsible for monitoring the activities of Hajj in Nigeria and Saudi Arabia, has urged the federal and state governments to subsidize flight ticket prices for Nigerian pilgrims embarking on the annual Hajj exercise.
In a statement released over the weekend, the national coordinator of the organization, Ibrahim Muhammed, suggested that each government should pay 50 percent of the additional price added to flight tickets for intending pilgrims. The National Hajj Commission (NAHCON) had previously announced that Nigerian airlines had approved a $250 increase in flight prices for this year’s pilgrimage due to the closure of Sudan’s airspace.
With less than 10 days before the airlifting of intending pilgrims, Muhammed said it would be difficult for them to pay the additional prices since they had already made complete payment for the Hajj exercise. The statement further suggested that asking pilgrims to pay the difference at this time would derail the airlift exercise.
Muhammed appealed to the federal government to take 50 percent of the subsidy while the states pay the balance of 50 percent for the numbers of intending pilgrims from their states. President Muhammadu Buhari had earlier approved Saudi-based Flynas and other Nigerian airlines to fly Nigerian pilgrims. However, only Flynas has agreed to airlift the pilgrims at the pre-Sudan crisis air ticket price, leaving the fate of remaining Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Boards pilgrims in uncertainty.
The closure of the Sudanese airspace will compel airlines to fly through longer routes to Saudi Arabia, adding approximately two to three hours of flight time to the existing airlift cost template for Nigerian intending pilgrims. Therefore, the organization has appealed to the government to extend the same gesture to Nigerian intending pilgrims by subsidizing the 2023 Hajj air ticket