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Written by: Gafar Alabi

It is a known fact that Holy Pilgrimage to Mecca is the fifth pillars of Islam, hence compulsory for those who are physically fit and financially buoyant as stated in the Holly Quran.

Findings showed that percentage of Muslim faithful willing to embark on holy pilgrimage to Mecca is usually on the increase annually inspite of any delay or challenges they might have experienced in the previous year,as they willing to fulfill the tenet. A good example was challenges the intending Muslim pilgrims faced during the global health crisis of Covid – 19. The challenges then was not CBN new naira policy or Bank cash withdrawal limitation, but global health issue that shutdown transactional global economy which later came to an end.

Even when global health issue was over, hajj exercise has not gotten it’s balance. No wonder the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria in one of it reports by the Chairman, Alhaji Dhikrullah Hassan disclosed that the hajj exercise under review experienced huge challenges due to the short notice given by the Saudi Arabia. Experts opined that, apart from the Saudi decision,huge number of accumulated outstanding intending pilgrims that could not perform hajj during the Covid-19 shutdown of 2020 and 2021 triggered the crisis. Where many Muslim faithful who were denied from performing Hajj rite during Covid 19 came out enmasse to perform hajj in 2022 after the travelling ban has been lifted by Saudi Authority .

Now looking into all these challenges that faced the performance of hajj exercise from 2020, 2021 and also in 2022 in Nigeria and it seems that another challenge such as; cash crunch or CBN new naira policy among issue like bank closure might pose a serious hindrance to a yet hitch – free 2023 hajj exercise.

Presently Saudi authority is not likely to be a challenge as there is no limitation for any country to perform hajj and Nigeria has its share opportunity even though with a limited slots of 43,000 after the two years hiatus.

As we are all aware that Hajj exercise usually involve large number of intending pilgrims and this involve both human and financial traffic interms of the payment of hajj fees by all intending pilgrims among others during this period brew unprecedented crisis to Nigeria intending pilgrims of cash crunch and bank closure are still on the rife.

An expert say, the elderly and aged intending pilgrims may go through unwarranted stress towards resolving their fare among others.

The major presumptuous challenge intending pilgrims may face may vary from their designated financial institutions through, cash transfer, tellers. But a deeper look into the current cashless or Naira swap policy introduced by the Central Bank of Nigeria(CBN), in October, 2022 is likely going to bring about a new dimension and changed the narrative of Nigeria socio-economic transactions in no small measure.

Findings showed that, 2023 hajj exercise will faced the unresolved new naira crisis where lot of people are still quing to access their bank for cash. The issue is how to ensure that the aged among others who are not exposed to digital Banking or online transactions through Android phones among other Applications could be enlightened on how to use and carry out their payment among other business transactions on line. Some experts argued that the new naira policy would improve the economic only if the citizens could be patient enough to embrace it allow it to work as planned. What is suprising is that Saudi nation had embraced cashless policy for long and the citizens are used to it. It was argued that, the new cashless economy will help improve and make payment of hajj fare easy and safe for all Intending Pilgrims in Ogun State in particular and across the nation in general.

A report from Vanguard Newspaper publication which said that the CBN cashless policy should not be discarded due to some current challenges confronting the policy is facing across the banking sector.

As the apex bank had explained, the cashless policy is aimed at scaling up financial inclusion, and reducing cases of armed robbery, kidnapping, terrorism financing, advance free fraud, graft, ransom payment.

The finding showed that cashless policy began in Lagos from January 2012, while the policy took effect in Rivers, Anambra, Abia, Kano, Ogun, and the Federal Capital Territory(FCT) in 2013. The policy was implemented nationwide in 2014. The service charge to effect from 2012, this gave people time to migrate to electronic channels and experience the infrastructure that has been put in place. Banks were to use this period as grace to encourage their customers to migrate to available electronic channels and where possible, demonstrate the cost that will accrue to those that continue to transact high volume of cash from March 2012 in Lagos.

A scholar anticipated that instead of making large withdrawals to effect payment for goods and services, such monies will be kept in the banking system so that payments are through “credit card-like means”. In this system users are issued with electronic cards which can be slotted into special electronic machines in order to effect payments. The cashless policy, if well implemented will help deepen and modernize the payment in Nigeria banks among the top 20 economies of the world

The policy will also to break the traditional barriers hindering financial inclusion for millions of Nigerians and bring low-cost secure and convenient financial services to urban, semi-urban and rural areas across the country especially through the mobile payment services. Nigerians, firms, banks and other stakeholders are therefore urged to support this initiative.

Information Officer, Ogun State Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Board, Oke-Mosan, Abeokuta.

Phone Number: 09062166067
Gmail: [email protected]

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