Hajj 2024: FCT pilgrims lament poor meals, accommodation in Makkah

Nigerian pilgrims in Makkah, Saudi Arabia, under the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Board for this year’s Hajj, on Tuesday, complained about the quality of food they were served and accommodation provided for them at the Nama Al- Asriya Hotel.

According to some of them who spoke with journalists and pleaded anonymity so as not to be sanctioned by officials, the food and accommodation they were given were not in tandem with the huge sum of money they paid for this year’s Hajj.

One of the FCT pilgrims lamented the quality of the Akamu they were served Tuesday morning was so sugary that it aggravated his ulcer, adding that he was forced to buy drugs of 50 Saudi Riyal, about N20,000.

He added that the spaghetti they were served as dinner Monday night was so tasteless to the extent that he and his roommates had to dump it to the dustbin.

“Though I have ulcer, the Akamu served this morning (Tuesday) was so sugary to the extent that it aggravated the ulcer. 

“The drugs one of my roommates rushed to buy for me when the ulcer was disturbing me cost 50 Saudi Riyal. That is about N20,000. I did not plan for this.”

Other pilgrims who also spoke on condition of anonymity said it would have been better if the FCT pilgrims board officials had given them a feeding allowance to enable them buy what they want.  

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One of them said if given the allowance, he won’t spend much on feeding and he would be okay with whatever he bought with his own money, instead of what obtained now.

Speaking on the accommodation, one pilgrim alleged that the room he and others were given did not have toilets, adding that he and his roommates are forced to share a toilet with another room.

According to him, the number of persons per room varied, informing that he and four others were sharing a room, while four persons shared in others. 

“Whether it is four per room or five, eight or 10 pilgrims are sharing one toilet. This is unfair. We deserve something better than what we were offered here. The board should have negotiated for something better than this,” the pilgrim said.

He also lamented that they were asked to pay N256,000 for the sacrificial ram needed during the pilgrimage 

Recall that a Facebook user had earlier on Tuesday posted a picture of the Akamu and Akara served the FCT pilgrims, lamenting that, “After paying N8m for Hajj, see the breakfast that our pilgrims are being given! This what was given today 28th May 2024. 

“In fact some pilgrims have already started begging to get money to buy food because even their remaining $300 that was promised to be paid to them in Saudi (out of $500) is not forthcoming from the authorities!”

Meanwhile, the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) has described the post by the Facebook user as fake news.

A statement made available to Tribune Online on Tuesday by the commission’s Assistant Director, Public Affairs, Fatima Sanda Usara, stated that the Facebook user was not even present in Makkah.

“Our attention has been drawn to a fake news on the Facebook page of one Babagana Digima, purportedly on the kind of breakfast being served Nigerian pilgrims after paying N8m as Hajj fare. 

“After addressing the shared story from its root, we believe ethical journalism would not permit a sensible practitioner to lift a story solely from a Facebook source. 

“What is more unfortunate is that the Facebook reporter is here in Nigeria, not in Saudi Arabia.

“Upon citing the story early this morning, NAHCON immediately drew the attention of the originator of the story privately and publicly to the inaccuracy of his claims to allow him to correct the wrong impression assuming he posted it innocently, unfortunately, he did not. 

“Still several testimonies were posted on his page by pilgrims on ground in Makkah disclaiming the allegation with pictorial evidences, while NAHCON staff on the platform also provided a clear description of the actual meal that was served, proving that the picture was doctored and that it was a fake news conclusively,” Usara stated.

She then urges the public “to ignore the fake news being circulated pertaining the FCT pilgrims’ breakfast. The story is not only false but also appears to be malicious.”

On the issue of pilgrims’ Basic Travel Allowance, Usara assured that each pilgrim would receive their due amount.

“On another development relating to issuance of Basic Travel Allowance (BTA) to pilgrims, NAHCON insists each pilgrim will eventually receive their due amount.  

“As at 24th April 2024 when NAHCON paid BTA differential for the pilgrims, the Dollar exchange rate was N1,252 to a Dollar thereby N626,000 was paid to be exchanged at value of $500 (Five hundred Dollars). 

“This is the figure that the Hajj stakeholders had agreed upon and which NAHCON declared and still stands by. 

“However, information reaching the Commission currently indicates that the banks are issuing BTA at the current market rate of Naira to the Dollar causing a shortfall to the original value whereas pilgrims are supposed to be paid at the exchange rate obtainable on 24th April.

“The Commission assures pilgrims to remain calm as it would not allow their interest to be jeopardized in any way. The Commission has already taken up the matter and hopes to be restore soon,” she stated.

Source:

Tribune Online