Time For Nigeria To End Sponsorship Of Pilgrimages

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nigeria end sponsorship of pilgrimages

September 3, 2017 – Time For Nigeria To End Sponsorship Of Pilgrimages

By Albert Afeso Akanbi

On July 30, vice president Yemi Osibanjo oversaw the official flag-off of the ceremony marking the departure of the first batch of Nigerian pilgrims travelling to Saudi Arabia for the 2017 Hajj.

According to the National Hajj Commission, not less than 91,000 Nigerians later joined pilgrims from around the world participating in this year’s ceremony. And not less than N136.5B, a large chunk of it contributed by government, went into this exercise.

Although Dr Lukman of the Muslim Congress of Nigeria has described the continued government sponsorship of pilgrimages as fraudulent, although some states like Kano, Lagos, and Niger have alluded to ending their’ sponsorship of religious pilgrimages, over the years, we have continued to see a steady increase in sponsorship from all the states.

For example, Katsina state governor Mr. Masari said his government spends not less than N1B on Hajj annually! It is surprising to note that this was coming from the governor of a state that, according to all statistical data available, remains one of the poorest in Nigeria.

Religious pilgrimages are not new to man and as a matter of fact, as long as religion remains a central focus in the affairs of man, pilgrimages will continue to be an issue and the numbers of participants, especially from Nigeria, would continue to grow.

The question however is, should government continue to fund pilgrimages? The answer is an unequivocal and a resounding no.

This is because over the years, many informed Nigerians have called for government to end sponsorship of religious pilgrimages not just because of the corruption that has taken over the process, but because it is totally unnecessary. I wonder why government should involve itself in a thing that is clearly personal and private. Religion is a thing of the mind, as it is a call to serve God and the worshiper must go that path alone.

I have made the point here before that according to section 10 of our constitution, Nigeria is a secular state, and as such no government at any level, should adopt any religion as a state religion. In fact, our government has to business taking sides with any religion, either by way of building places of worship or sponsoring religious excursions.

Professor Ishaq Akintola, a renowned Islamic cleric himself, has made it clear that ‘hajj was enjoined on Muslims faithful ones in a life time if they can afford it…and umrah –lesser hajj- is not compulsory’. If Hajj is compulsory for the financially buoyant and physically fit Muslims ones in their life time, and we know for the Christians, visit to Jerusalem is not compulsory, why then does our governments continue to sponsor those intending to embark on journeys which they clearly expect to get some type of personal spiritual epiphany from?

This is because according to the professor, ‘politicians have hijacked the process, and are now sponsoring all manner of people, even thugs and prostitutes as another way of syphoning money.
According to reports, 98 per cent of the services rendered by NAHCON in Saudi Arabia are determined in U.S. dollars. That “is why NAHCON pegged the 2017 hajj fare at N1.5 million” for each participant, many of who were sponsored by government because they could not afford it. If we are told “hajj is not mandatory on those who do not have the money to perform it”, is it not time for all well-meaning

Nigerians to join voices and call for the stoppage of this waste of resources in the name of religious pilgrimages?

The question is, of what economic value and benefit are those who receive the largesse from government to attend these pilgrimages to the Nigerian economy when they return? What benefit is their trip to the common man on the street?

According to reports, more than 1.7 million pilgrims are participating in this year’s hajj to Saudi Arabia to fulfill this one of the pillars of Islam. I am trying to imagine the economic benefits that will come with the visitors for the host country, because there are those who believe Saudi Arabia desperately needs to find other sources of income beyond oil, and boosting tourism is high up on the agenda of their government.

Recently, our government entered a bilateral agreement with the UAE with the intention of thwarting the activities of the thieves among us who continue to parade themselves as leaders because they have decided that was the new safe haven to keep stolen wealth. If our politicians, in their kleptomaniac tendencies continue to enrich other economies, must we the masses join them in exhibiting our wastefulness by jumping at every opportunity of adding to the FOREX of other economies?

I am sure that many of those who made the trip to this year’s hajj have no reason whatever of doing so. Personally, I know of more than two people, under government sponsorship who have been embarking on hajj for the last 3 years. Why are we always so keen on putting ego, greed and self-interest before common sense and doing what is right and needful in this country?

In 2015, over 2,177 pilgrims were crushed to death due to stampede that happened in the Hajj in Saudi Arabia. That disaster, one of the deadliest in the history of the annual pilgrimage, claimed 199 Nigerian pilgrims according to the official reports. I am almost certain that for many of the dead, God rest their souls, it would not have been their second or even third hajj, and they would have travelled for that umpteenth time because they may have been able to maneuver their way into getting government sponsorship.

Because President Buhari has made anti-corruption one of the focal point of his government, I am calling on this administration to see to an immediate end to this misappropriation of funds badly needed to meet other needs in this times of biting recession in the name of sponsorship of pilgrimages, and a cessation of this unwarranted use of tax payers’ money in funding religious faithful in their evidently private spiritual endeavors.

Albert Afeso Akanbi is a Novelist, Researcher, Columnist and Humanitarian. He lives in Abuja, FCT, Nigeria.

Email: [email protected] Twitter: @afeso82 Instagram: afeso82 Blog: akanbiafeso.wordpress.com

15 thoughts on “Time For Nigeria To End Sponsorship Of Pilgrimages

  1. The most intelligent Nigerian mystic( Chief Obafemi Awolowo) started it when Nigeria was cleverly managed. But, it was sincere way to help folks back then and did not harm us economically. Nowadays, things are bad, our fortunes from oil are stolen by bastards and currently the price of oil is nothing to rely on; we are in pain, every spending that has nothing to do with helping the economy to grow must be suspended! Our politicians should grow up and stay away from anachronistic and stupid debates that perpetuate mediocrity in our midst ke!

  2. THE GOVT. OF NIGERIA HAS continued to adopt ideologies and cultures that empower other nations while impoverishing Nigerians. It is common sense to know that even if the govt should sponsor pilgrimages, it is not at this juncture where Nigeria is purportedly struggling to stand on her feet again after all the reported loots by the previous government. Pilgrimages should not be sponsored by the government because:

    A) It is in no way beneficial to the economy of Nigeria, and
    B) It should be an individual religious exercise. Where is the place of sacrifice if the money you spend is not actually your own?

  3. Nigeria in my view remain the only circular nation in the world where federal and state governments use scarce resources to sponsor Christian and Muslim pilgrims at the expense of millions of suffering people. Why spending huge amount of money that should have been channel to education, infrastructure and healthcare on religious rite? That is the peak of wasteful spending and poor management when over 90% of our people are still living in abject poverty on a daily basis. It is not the responsibility of any government to ventures in any religious activities, rather every reasonable government should provide security, electricity, quality healthcare, education, and create conductive environment for both local and private investors to strive in other to enable job creation for millions of Nigerian jobless youths. I encourage Nigerian Muslims and Christians who have the means to pay for their pilgrimage to perform their religious obligations by visiting both holy land of Mecca and Isreal, but not at the expense of millions of suffering people. Shikenah!

  4. MY QUESTION IS HOW DOES SPONSORING PEOPLE WITH OUT MONEY TO THESE SO CALL HOLY LAND, BENEFITS US? AND TRUST ME, I’VE BEEN TO SAUDI ARABIA AND ITS NEIGHBORING COUNTRIES, THERE’S NOTHING HOLY ABOUT THESE PEOPLE.

  5. I believe prolonged rule by the nothern generals emboldened the sponsoring of this stupid funding. Instead of pumping money into education and infrastructure, even fot the north, they have wasted decades of inheritances on the pilgrimage that is of no value to the development of the country and the people. Waste of resources gives Nigerian leaders so much pleasure. Its like the air they breathe. I pray Nigeria is able to recover from this decades of wasteful spending.
    Annoyingly, the people that contribute next to nothing to the country’s GDP are the highest beneficiaries of this wasteful spendings. Arrrrrrrgh, this country is in serious mess.

  6. THEY CREATED THIS NONSENSICAL TOURISM IN THE NAME OF RELIGION AND WE SPEND THOUSANDS/MILLIONS TO RISK OUR LIVES TRAVELING OVER THERE YEARLY…WE’VE BEEN CON PEOPLE….HOW MANY NIGERIAN HAVE DIED DURING THIS SILLY PILGRIMAGE AND HOW MANY MORE HAVE TO DIE??

  7. Government need to stop wasting money enriching another countries,prigrimage suppose to be fianced by individual not Government,alot of poverty in the country,WHICH WAY NIGERIA,God everywhere even in your house,you dont need to travell to another country

  8. LONG OVERDUE.GOVT HAS NO BUSINESS WITH RELIGION..SPONSOR YOURSELF OR CREATE A SITE FOR PILGRIMAGE.EVIL PERSISTS CONSISTENTLY IN THE NATION EACH WITH OVER A BILLION SPENT ANNUALLY ON PILGRIMAGE.LOVE THY NEIGBOR AS YOURSELF REGARDLESS OF TRIBE,ETHNICITY OR RELIGION AND SEE EVERYONE PROSPER.

  9. That is where the nothern military generals who ruled for so long has led the country. The most annoying part is that the states who contribute nothing to the economy are the greatest beneficiaries of this madness. Instead of pumping money into education and infrastructure, even for those people, thay have wasted trillions on religious tourism which contributes absolutely nothing to the economy, rather it robs the economy.

  10. I am not really in support of govt institutions funding hajj annually. Hajj been one of the tenets of islam should only be performed at least once in our lifetime and for only those who can afford it. There are indeed instances where rich may fund the poor from their personal resources.

    Taking to account the economy situation of the nigerian masses, the money is better be unvested on basic amenities for the poor like road, electricity, medical and hospitals. These are priority of the govt not Hajj. Islam has rules and fiqh (jurisprudence). Even a man is not allowed to go to hajj if his house is not settled i:e even if he has money but he is not in good terms with his wives and kids. He must settle with them to his best of his ability before he embarks on holy trip.

    Some people keep going every year but in fact, they have lost the essence of hajj. Fiqh of islam even says that if you have money for hajj but your neighbors are hungry, loan them money to invest responsibly and give your money back. This is good deed as well. Now, this should not be mistaken for discouraging people from going to haj. I restrict my comment to nigerian economy situation only bcus there are rich people who fund poor or supposed poor people to go to hajj why many are jobless and hungry.

    So in my humble opinion, govt should stay out of funding hajis and hajas. The monies should be diverted to better common basic amenities average humans should enjoy. Many go to hajj today but there is no difference before and after.

    There are three (3) “calls” of hajj as highlighted by some ulama. They are:

    The call of Nabi Ibrahim (Abraham). This “call” is the most exalted form of haj any muslim can wish himself/herself. This means that a muslim who goes to Hajj, performs obligatory and prophetic rites throughout the procession and returns home safely. Upon returning, he dumps all bad habits, all evils..you name it. This is a sign his/her previous sins are forgiven. Because essence of hajj is to return to your home on fitra (sinless).

    The second “call” is the call of shaytan (satan). These set of people go to hajj, performs all obligatory/prophetic rites as mandated and return home safely. But upon returning, they return to their previous sins. If they are politicians, instead of rectifying themselves, by paying pensioners, fulfil their promises to their people.Be good to their family and all that is good, they even become worst than before they went to hajj. This is called “call of satan”. Their hajj stand on a shaky rock.

    The third and the last “call” is the call of maut (death). These are set of people who make trip to haj, either before, during or after performing obligatory and prophetic rites, they die. Some of them may die during procession like touring kaaba, mount arafat etc. Some of them die in plane crash upon returning etc. If their intention for the haj was pure, this are considered automatic paradise bound. As painful as it may be, they are better than “call of satan”. So many probably answer call of satan today especially politicians and musicians. So people should not always mock those who die in hajj because appearance and reality are opposite to each other.

    At the end of the day, we all say “May Allah accept our hajj”.

    Now this issue of funding applies to christian pilgrims to Jerusalem. Their should be collective efforts from both sides to end it if they truly want to. Whoever wants to go to hajj or Jerusalem should strive and work for it. If some rich people decided to sponsor them from their personal wealth, that’s fine.

    #myopinion

    ****wink****

    • @Amanda, this is a very informative and unbiased comment from you. Government sponsorship of pilgrimages to Mecca and Jerusalem should cease/stop. Even if the country is buoyant enough, I believe pilgrimage should be footed by the individual(s) performing the rite. Government should hands off.

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