Tuesday, August 9, 2016 10:55 pm
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has debunked claims in certain quarters suggesting that prospective pilgrims have been granted concessionary foreign exchange rate for the 2016 pilgrimage.
This is contained in a statement in Abuja on Tuesday by the bank’s acting Director of Communications, Mr Isaac Okorafor.
According to the statement, the CBN Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele, said there was no preferential exchange rate of any sort to intending pilgrims.
He clarified that laid down procedure was followed in arriving at the exchange rate for the pilgrims.
“What is obtainable is that every year, prior to the commencement of the pilgrimage, the commission, both Christian and Muslims, approach the CBN to agree on the exchange rate for the personal travel allowance (PTA) for that particular year.
“In this case is between 750 dollars and 1,000 dollars per pilgrim,” he said.
He further explained that the agreement to sell foreign exchange to the pilgrims at the rate of N197 to the Dollar was reached as far back as April 2016 at the prevailing rate then.
According to the CBN Governor, this particular agreement is applicable to both intending Christian and Muslim pilgrims.
He said afterwards, the pilgrims would go ahead to make commitment by way of advanced payment through their various states pilgrims’ welfare boards for onward transmission to National Hajj Commission or Christian Pilgrims Commission as the case might be.
“In this particular case, the market rate prevailed.
” Hence, with the commencement of the flexible exchange rate policy, market determined rates would continue to serve as the bases for foreign exchange for pilgrimage or any form of PTA in the country,” he said.
While likening the request for PTA for pilgrimage of tourism as a valid transaction, Mr Emefiele said that the CBN as a responsible organisation could not renege on agreements or contracts entered into for whatever business transactions.
He therefore appealed to members of the public to exercise restraint in their comments in order not to cause unnecessary and avoidable disaffection among the public.(NAN)
In the same vein, the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) said on Tuesday in Abuja said that the Federal Government had not provided concessionary exchange rate or waiver for the 2016 Hajj pilgrims.
Addressing newsmen, the Executive Chairman of the commission, Alhaji Abdullahi Mohammed, also denied the involvement of government in sourcing for foreign exchange for the pilgrims.
He added that contrary to the widely held view among Nigerians, the Federal Government was not sponsoring any pilgrim to Saudi Arabia this year.
Mohammed explained that the commission met with State Pilgrims Agencies in January and agreed that with the prevailing economic challenges, the burden of state sponsorship or concessionary rate should be taken off the government.
“ It was at that meeting that we agreed to approach the Central Bank of Nigeria to allow us use the prevailing rate then which was N197 to the dollar.
“ It was on that basis that we signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the CBN in March this year.
“ So, it was on that basis that intending pilgrims were charged.
‘’When the payments were remitted to the commission, we deposited the money in our account, domiciled at the CBN since then,’’ he said.
According to Mohammed, it will be unfair to the pilgrims if they are now asked to access their money on the basis of the current exchange rate.
“ People should not forget that when this deal was struck, the current dual exchange rate policy of the CBN was not operational,“ he said.
He said that the ongoing issue of the exchange rate of N197 to a dollar was unnecessary as it was neither a concessionary rate nor a waiver.
The chairman added that the pilgrims were only getting a fair deal. (NAN)