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Saudi Arabia has imposed a compulsory levy equivalent of N163,000 on each  prospective Nigerian pilgrim, who has performed Hajj or Umrah in the last two years.

It also introduced a five per cent Value Added Tax (VAT) on all services, excluding food items and medical drugs.

Mr. Abdullahi Mukhtar, the Chairman of the National Hajj Commission (NAHCON), said the affected pilgrims are to pay SR2000, an equivalent to N163,000.

It is exclusive of the substantive fare for the 2018 Hajj which is yet to be announced by the federal government.

Mukhtar spoke in Sokoto yesterday at a sensitization campaign organized by the Commission for prospective pilgrims and officials of the Pilgrims Welfare Agencies (PWA), from Sokoto, Kebbi and Zamfara States.

The levy, according to him, was announced by the Saudi Arabian Hajj Ministry and it became fully effective during the 2017 Hajj exercise.

The Chairman, who was represented by the National Commissioner in Charge of Operations, Alhaji Abdullahi Sale, said that the campaign was organized to intimate the nation’s prospective pilgrims.

“This is on the need to ensure the early completion of their hajj fares on or before the end of March, 2018, as it would enable the commission and the various PWA, to make early and efficient arrangements.”

He said that the event was also organized to intimate the prospective pilgrims on the introduction of biometric data capturing of all Umrah and Hajj pilgrims by the Saudi Arabian authorities.

He added that  three centres have been opened in Kano, Lagos and Abuja, for the data capturing, “although efforts were on by the commission to ensure the increment of the centres.”

The Chairman, Forum of PWA in Nigeria, Alhaji Abubakar Sarkin Fawa Danbo, commended the commission for organizing the event, saying that various PWAs jn Nigeria were working round the clock to ensure the success of the 2018 hajj exercise.

Alhaji Muntari Maigona, PWA Chairman Sokoto state, called on the commission to allow the various states pilgrims welfare agencies to deploy medical Doctors and other medical staff to accompany the pilgrims during the hajj exercise.

He lamented that the existing arrangements on pilgrims feeding should be improved, while the companies in charge of such gesture should be increased.

“So, 24 states houses of assembly are still working on it, many of them are already holding public hearing on it. That is what is going on.

“For example, Sokoto State just conducted public hearing on the bill between Tuesday and Thursday last week.

“Gombe has just called for memorandum from its citizens on Local Government Autonomy Bill. Others also deferred it to hold public hearing and for further discussions before they vote and forward it to Chairman, Conference of Speakers.

“It is just that only eight so far have voted for it among 10 states who have fully considered it. It is possible that we will still get the 16 states, out of the remaining states that have not voted on Local Government Autonomy Bill.

“We can see that it has not been rejected. So, we can’t say local government autonomy has been rejected. It is still work in progress,” the NULGE president explained.

He said Dogara cannot be blamed for the speculation arising from his statement, because of the complexity of the ongoing constitution amendment process.

“This important observation is necessary so that it would not give wrong signal to the remaining 24 states still working on the Local Government Autonomy Bill to perhaps think that since the bill has been rejected, there is no need to debate and vote in its favour again.”

He appealed to them to vote in favour of Local Government Autonomy.

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