Our Nigeria News Magazine
The news is by your side.

Alleged N90b Pilgrimage Subsidy: Government Must Prioritise Development Over Pilgrimages

Alleged N90b Pilgrimage Subsidy: Government Must Prioritise Development Over Pilgrimages

Jerry Adesewo

Nigeria currently grapples with widespread poverty, inadequate healthcare, educational deficiencies, insecurity, and crumbling infrastructure, among others. Across the nation, inflation has driven Nigerians to the point of frustration, with many families unable to feed adequately, and some, unable to feed at all. Hence, allocating such substantial sums towards pilgrimages, as is currently making the rounds in the media, raises fundamental questions about governmental priorities.

According to recent reports, the Nigerian government has allegedly allocated N90 billion in support of Islamic pilgrimages in the face of these pressing socio-economic challenges affecting millions of citizens. Knowing how religiously biased we are as a nation, it is safe to assume that, if the Hajj pilgrims got a N90bn subsidy, another N60bn would probably be, if it has not already been allocated, to the Christian pilgrims as well, to balance the equation. That is N150 billion.

The N90 billion by the federal government will offer subsidies to around 20,000 intending pilgrims at the rate of ₦3.5 million each. But if spread across the intending 50,000 pilgrims, then each will get between N1.6 million and N1.9 million. The question is, what is the value of this money in the lives of the recipient, who will embark on this pilgrimage, and then return to an economically tumultuous situation.

Read Also: NCPC boss urges pilgrims to practice good culture of Holy Land in Nigeria

According to a July 2023 publication by Saturday Punch, thirteen state governors spent N14.84bn to sponsor no fewer than 4,771 persons on religious pilgrimage. A breakdown of the amount showed that in 2023, governors spent N2.53bn to sponsor Christian pilgrims and N7.35bn on their Muslim counterparts.  In 2022, N1.54bn was expended on the sponsorship of Christian pilgrims and N3.403bn for Muslims sponsored on Hajj.

In 2024, this exercise is estimated to cost every Muslim Pilgrim, above N8m and the Christian Pilgrim N3m, based on information available on the Nigeria Christian Pilgrim Commission website. Already, the Governor of Kano State, Abba Yusuf, has announced a N500,000 subsidy for all intending Muslim pilgrims from the state, following up on his donation of N65m to 6,166 hajj pilgrims in 2023. The same goes for many other states across the country.

Amidst this backdrop, it becomes imperative to re-evaluate the rationale behind utilising taxpayers’ money to fund religious pilgrimages. While acknowledging the cultural and spiritual significance of such journeys, it is essential to question whether public funds should be diverted towards personal religious endeavours, especially when there are pressing needs demanding attention within the country.

Statistics reveal stark realities that underscore the urgency of redirecting funds towards development projects. For instance, Nigeria is home to over 87 million people living in extreme poverty, with inadequate access to basic amenities such as clean water, healthcare, and education. Moreover, the country’s healthcare system is under immense strain, with limited resources and infrastructure, resulting in preventable deaths and widespread suffering. So, then, just imagine what impact a N90 billion or N150 billion could have on the system, if redirected and administered adequately.

In light of these challenges, it is imperative to consider alternative uses for the funds currently allocated to religious pilgrimages. Rather than subsidising individual religious journeys, these resources could be redirected towards initiatives aimed at alleviating poverty, improving healthcare services, enhancing educational opportunities, and revitalising infrastructure across the nation.

It is important to emphasise that, pilgrimages are spiritual journeys, and spiritual journeys are largely personal affairs. And should remain so. Nigerians who are interested in spiritual pilgrimages should be allowed to do so privately, the same way we do with our various vacations and other private trips, with no form of funding from the government, whether federal or state.

The sad reality is also that more than half of these hundreds of thousands of pilgrims are not there for the spiritual reasons placed on the front burner. It is either touristic or economic, as someone once confessed to being sponsored by the government to being sponsored to Jerusalem three times in succession, and each time, there was nothing spiritual about the process. There have also been cases of those who journeyed to Mecca for the primary reason of buying goods, which they bring to Nigeria to sell. Some others also do it for drug peddling purposes.

President Bola Tinubu should, as a matter of seriousness, rescind this decision, and reallocate this N90 billion and whatever is being planned for the Christian Pilgrims, for other pressing needs. In addition, enact a law that prohibits the sponsorship of religious pilgrimages with public funds.

Proposals for alternative allocations include investing in poverty alleviation programmes, expanding access to quality healthcare services, bolstering educational infrastructure, and implementing sustainable development projects. By prioritising these areas, the government can address the root causes of poverty, inequality, and underdevelopment, thereby fostering inclusive growth and improving the quality of life for all Nigerians.

Furthermore, reallocating funds towards development initiatives aligns with international standards and best practices. Countries facing similar socio-economic challenges have successfully implemented strategies focused on poverty reduction, healthcare improvement, and educational advancement, resulting in tangible benefits for their citizens.

The truth is, there is a lot the Federal Government can do with N90 billion, rather than waste it on spiritual pilgrimages. There are hospitals around the country without equipment. There are schools without the necessary study materials. Could the government of Kano State, for instance, consider subsidising education in the estate by offering that N500,000 as a one-off education grant to Kano indigenes in tertiary institutions? Shouldn’t the Ogun state government be thinking of sending monetised palliatives to every one of the state’s indigenes who are jobless, to wade off insecurity and crime in the state?

In conclusion, let me emphasise that, it is imperative to re-evaluate the allocation of taxpayers’ money towards religious pilgrimages in Nigeria in light of the pressing socio-economic challenges facing the nation. By redirecting these funds towards development initiatives, the government can address the root causes of poverty, inequality, and underdevelopment, fostering inclusive growth and improving the well-being of all Nigerians.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.