The Nigerian Senate has asked the Federal Government to “as matter of urgency” make dollar available to Nigerians embarking on pilgrimage (hajj) to Saudi Arabia or Israel at N200, lower than what was approved in the Medium Term Expenditure Framework and the Appropriations Act.
The Senate’s call, on Thursday, followed the adoption of the report on “Extortion of Pilgrims By National Hajj Commission” by its committee on foreign affairs presented by Monsurat Sunmonu, APC-Oyo.
“The Government should as matter of urgency extend concession on the Naira – Dollar exchange to NAHCON and NCPC, once in every year, for the pilgrimages to the two Holy Lands,” read the report.
“Therefore, the committee strongly recommends the concession of N200 to $1 for 2017 Hajj to bring down the cost to the bearable level,” it added.
Adamu Aliero, APC-Kebbi, said the Central Bank of Nigeria had been offering dollar at N200 to some unnamed businesses while seeking the support of the Senate to adopt the recommendation on the exchange rate.
“You said CBN has been giving some businesses dollar at N200?” asked Senate President Bukola Saraki, calling Mr. Aliero to restate his claim.
“If some businesses are getting that concession, pilgrims also deserve it,” Mr. Saraki said, after an affirmation by Mr. Aliero.
The dollar currently exchanges for 365 naira in the black market, and about 315 naira in the interbank.
Critics of lowering exchange rate for pilgrims argue the policy serves no economic purpose, and hold that such concession should be granted to businesses that help stimulate growth.
The Senate also resolved that the federal government should restore the “institution of amir hajj” to improve the relationship between Nigeria and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in respect of Hajj.
It also asked the government to “engage at highest level discussions with Saudi Arabia to review the 50 – 50 carriage of pilgrims between Nigerian and Saudi Arabian airlines.
“This is with with a view to providing opportunities for more indigenous Nigerian airlines to participate in Hajj operations,” according to a recommendation, which was later adopted by the Senate.