On Thursday the 20th of July 2017, the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria passed a resolution mandating the Federal Government through the Central Bank of Nigeria to grant a concession of N200 per dollar for Nigerian Muslims going for the 2017 Hajj in Saudi Arabia.According to the Senate,this was an intervention to help reduce the cost of this year’s Pilgrimage for the poor who cannot afford same.This resolution is not only strange, it raises some questions which every senator that voted to approve such a resolution must ponder about.
First and foremost, it is agreed that Hajj as one of the five pillars of Islam was commanded by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) . But this injunction was not made at large. The prophet took cognizance of the cost implications of the faithful embarking on a journey from around the world to Mecca, Hegira and Medina thus qualifying the Hajj for only those who can afford it. By this, any person who cannot afford the cost of embarking on the Hajj is under no obligation whatsoever.
Simply put then, pilgrimage is not for the poor who would go to Mecca and starve to death and in most cases due to inability to get a decent accommodation, become public health nuisance. These poor pilgrims also could resort to begging, pick-pocketing and even stealing from richer pilgrims which will only serve to dent the image of the country.
Secondly, the resolution which basically introduces subsidy in the Muslim pilgrimage constitutes a gargantuan economic waste. There is no record of economic benefits that has accrued from the Hajj and using the country’s scarce foreign exchange for religious tourism is definitely a disservice to the ailing national economy.
The Senate should rather concern itself on how to grant subsidies and foreign exchange concessions to critical sectors of the economy such as agriculture and manufacturing that would end the current recession and make Nigeria a net exporter. This would garner foreign exchange for the country and force down the exchange rate of the Dollar to less than the amount stated in the Resolution as subsidy for the 2017 Hajj.
Thirdly and most importantly, by the resolution granting subsidy to Muslim pilgrims, the Senate has breached a very fundamental provision of the constitution by seeking to advance the cause of a religious group as though it were a state religion. Section 10 of the 1999 Constitution clearly proclaims the secularity of the Nigerian state by prohibiting the adoption of a state religion as the Senate has done.
On this score alone, this Resolution must be treated for what it is, unconstitutional, void and of no effect whatsoever. The Senate has thus boldly stated that Islam is Nigeria’s State Religion, a clear affront to the Nigerian Constitution.It is only hoped that the Executive will be advised to see the constitutional breach in the Senate resolution and dismiss it.This is a sad commentary on the men and women who sit in the hallowed chambers of the Senate supervising over a naked breach and violent rape of the constitution which they swore to defend.One day, some of these Senators may wake up to find themselves unworthy of the appellation, “Distinguished Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”.