Lagos Muslim Pilgrims Board warns against ‘unrealistic’ tour operators

Lagos pilgrims pray for Akinwunmi Ambode in Mecca Saudi Arabia

The Lagos State Muslims Pilgrims Welfare Board has advised intending pilgrims to be wary of some tour operators who used unrealistic hajj fares as initial deposits, to attract customers.

Mr Muftau Okoya, Executive Secretary of the board, gave the warning on Friday in Lagos.

He said that such tour operators devised methods of using initially low deposits to attract customers, only to put unnecessary pressure on them when the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) finally declares the legitimate fare.

“We have observed that some tour operators attract intending pilgrims with ridiculously low deposits, to lure them, only to put them under undue pressure afterwards,’’ the executive secretary said.

He said that although NAHCON had yet to fix the hajj fare, the board pegged the initial deposit at N1.35 million, after considering all necessary financial indicators.

“My advice to the 2018 intending pilgrims is to be wary of such unrealistic fares, our tentative deposit is N1.35million, which could be subjected to a slight upward or downward review,’’ Okoya said.

He, however, urged intending pilgrims to endeavour to make their deposit payments before the March 31 deadline fixed by NAHCON.

Okoya said that the board was prepared to improve on previous hajj operations and make the 2018 hajj a success.

“I call on intending pilgrims to avoid rush and make their payments early, before the March 31 deadline, because there will be no extension.

“We will work hard to maintain our clean record of creating the best conditions for our pilgrims, and timely preparations will go a long way to help us,’’ he said.

The Executive Secretary reminded pilgrims who participated in the hajj exercise between 2015 and 2017 of the 2000 Riyal additional cost on the hajj fare stipulated by the Saudi Arabian government.

He said that that the policy was designed to accommodate and encourage first-time pilgrims.

“Intending pilgrims who performed the hajj between 2015 and 2017 will be required to pay an additional 2000 Riyal, as announced by the Saudi Arabian authorities.

“The policy is designed to reduce those who like to repeat theirs on a yearly basis and to create space for first-time pilgrims,’’ he said.

Okoya assured that the board had concluded accommodation arrangements for the 2018 pilgrims in a newly constructed facility, adding that regular lectures and sermons would also be organised to make the hajj exercise more worthy for them.