Kaduna state governor Mallam Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai has announced that his government will no longer subsidise Hajj pilgrimage.
Governor El Rufai says healthcare and education in the state are more important than Hajj
Speaking to press men, he said “Nigeria’s Constitution does not recognise any religion as a state religion. Accordingly we do not think it is appropriate, strictly interpreting the Constitution, that public funds should be used to advance any religious courses,”
Hundreds of thousands Nigerians depend on the government to pay for them to travel to Saudi Arabia to observe Hajj.
Last year it cost the government over $13 million. Multiple that amount by 35 Nigerian states, all using public money for Nigeria’s pilgrims and it adds up to hundreds of millions of dollars each year. Government funding of Christian pilgrimages is being stopped too. Some say the ban will tackle corruption among government officials that decide who goes.
“Means are inflated, prices of the trips are inflated, and those officials have cuts for themselves. They negotiate with hotels and airlines, and they have their personal interest in that,” – claims James Movel Wuye from Interfaith mediation centre, adding that “for me that is evil in itself, a holy thing known in an evil way”.
Earlier in August, Rufai announced that the state has saved a total amount of N221.81m due to its decision not to sponsor the 105 Hajj. He said the savings could go into addressing more pressing needs such as qualitative education and healthcare in the state and improve public services, but many pilgrims still feel very unhappy. They feel payment to be able travel to Hajj is the most important thing the government can do for citizens who can’t afford to pay for themselves to go.