Hajj

Hajj 2024: Shelve the idea of issuing pilgrims BTA on payment cards, CSO tells CBN

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The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) have been advised to shelve the idea of issuing pilgrims Basic Travel Allowance (BTA) through payment cards.

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The advice was given Tuesday by Independent Hajj Reporters (IHR) in a statement by its national coordinator Ibrahim Mohammed.

IHR said with less than 24 hours to the commencement of airlift of pilgrims to the holy land, the CBN was said to have directed some commercial Banks to pay pilgrims only $200 in cash out of the $500 each pilgrim is expected to receive while the remaining $300 will be given on a payment card.

“This year’s intending pilgrims have already gone through a lot of uncertainties ranging from forex policy induced rise in Hajj fare to reduction in BTA. This decision by the apex bank will only add to their woes “

“It is common knowledge that most of our pilgrims come from the rural areas and are not familiar with virtual financial transactions, most do not even know how to use an ATM card.  Also, most ATM machines in Saudi Arabia are configured in Arabic which poses more challenges to even those who are well acquainted with E-transaction.

“Also, most travelers are often charged very high for using ATM machines in foreign countries, and with a depleted BAT already in place, the use of the cards for withdrawals in Saudi Arabia will only add to the pilgrim’s misery,” IHR said.

The CSO also stated that there were very few ATM machines available around the Misfalah/Kudai and Shahrah Mansur areas where most Nigerian pilgrims stay, this lack of access will also be a serious problem. About 75 percent of Nigerian pilgrims are first timers who mostly find it difficult to locate their accommodations in Makkah due to heavy traffic and unique nature of the buildings – how will they locate an ATM Machine in such a situation?

The statement added that most of the pilgrims will also find it difficult to pay for services using the card.

“Purchase of drinking water and other basic necessities will be a problem for the pilgrims this year, if the CBN insists on giving them payment cards. Not forgetting that, it is easier for an average person to guard their cash than a card, therefore, the tendency of pilgrims losing the cards are very high. Government policies should be tailored towards making life easier for the citizen, not complicating it.

“We therefore, urge the CBN to immediately rescind the decision and pay the pilgrims in cash, that is what will help them and relieve them of the stress associated with years hajj and allow them to concentrate on performing their hajj rites with relative peace of mind. IHR added.

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