HomeGeneralOf Subsidy On Religious Pilgrimage And GTB Network Palaver

Of Subsidy On Religious Pilgrimage And GTB Network Palaver

Religion is Nigeria and Nigeria is religion.

This is so at least from the point of view of how Nigerians treat the issue of religion.

Yes, we are fervent in our religious beliefs and even outdo those who brought the other religions that aren’t traditional.

It is as clear as crystal ball that we are not godly in our daily attitude. If we are godly as the scripture enjoins us, we won’t be beset with multifarious problems that are self-inflicted.

Religion is the biggest of the various issues affecting us as a nation.

Our leaders have over the years used it to undermine our existence, especially those who are not godly in the pursuit of their religious beliefs.

It is such that over the years, our leaders have used our being religious not to advance our progressive cause but use it as an instrument of political manipulation and systemic erosion of our economic wellbeing.

Recently, the Federal Government declared its intention to spend a whooping N90 billion as subsidy for those 50,000 Nigerians billed to perform this year’s Hajj.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia allotted 150,000 or so pilgrims to Nigeria to perform the yearly religious tourism venture, which is more of economic benefit to it than the religion itself.

I wonder why we can’t adopt one of the black stones in various parts of the country as the object of “stoning Satan,” one of the essences of going to Saudi.

Most adherents have Satan bigger than the ones in Saudi in their backyard and communities more potent than the one they spent millions of naira to visit.

So far, only 50,000 Moslems have signified capacity to pay the average of N4.1 million per pilgrim as charged by the National Hajj Commission, NHC.

Recently, the commission announced an additional charge of N1.9 million for each intending pilgrim to be paid before a March 28 deadline.

For new registrations, each pilgrim would cough out N8.5 million, according to Sandra Usara, Spokesman of the National Hajj Commission. She explained that the new exchange rate of N1,474 to the dollar made such an increase imperative.

This is tenable if such intending pilgrims are to bear the cost from their pockets and not rely on the Federal Government, which has graciously provided the N90 billion largesse.

The Federal Government’s subsidy is obviously for 49,000 out of the 50,000 pilgrims who are to source their payment with a preferential rate of N897 to the dollar.

This is happening in an era when importers of raw materials for industries struggle to buy their purchases through the banks at ridiculous rates.

A nation deserves whatever it gets through its choice of priorities.

The Federal Government’s subsidy is clearly in the form of paying part of the total sum for each of the pilgrims in terms of cash donation and purchase of foreign currency at special rates as indicated above.

From experience, it is a statement of fact that asking the Nigerian faithful not to perform the Hajj or journey to other foreign Holy sites, like Jerusalem, is akin to declaring war on them.

This has been the headache of all governments in Nigeria and it does appear the problem will never be addressed fairly.

The evidence of how we priced pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, especially in the Northern part of the country, is evident in the decision of Zamfara, Sokoto, Kano and other states on Hajj in 2020 and 2021.

In the South-West too, many states like Osun, Lagos, Ogun and Oyo spent millions yearly subsidising pilgrims of all sorts.

For example, in that year, Zamfara State spent billions of Naira to sponsor pilgrims to Mecca. Meanwhile, during those two years, the Zamfara State Government could not pay fees to the West African Examinations Council, WAEC, for students from the state. In other words, the government succeeded in denying some students opportunity to advance their education in a jet age that has left Nigeria, their country, behind.

Heaven helps those who help themselves.

During this period, too, the Zamfara State Government spent billions of Naira to procure Cadillac Limousines for nineteen of its traditional rulers, while thousands of its students languished at home. These idle hands ultimately became recruits for banditry and kidnapping that trouble the state today.

It is clear to all and sundry that bandits have made Zamfara State ungovernable, while the rich and powerful, who profit from the illegal goldmines, smile to the bank.

Negotiators for abducted students in most of our Northern states also smile to the banks.

Besides, tailors and caregivers, who sew uniforms to abductees, have also increased their financial coasts.

It is also without question that the increasing rate of banditry in most parts of the North is attributable to lack of access to education and the inability of successive governments to tame the scourge of begging which has been elevated to a culture of sorts.

Education as President Bola Tinubu remarked recently remains the lasting solution to eradication of poverty. If this is so, spending more money (as his government is doing this year) on pilgrimage for a secular state than education loans to be paid back is a contradiction of his “Renewed Hope,” in spite of whatever political gain is expected from the religious policy.

It also never occurred to those who prefer spending money on religious tourism that such faith adherents can understand and propagate the faith better if they have sound education, which in all climes, remains the most potent weapon of religious evangelism.

Today, no government, or should I say the ruling elite, has ever sat down to draw a link between their religious priority and insecurity, which has grounded serious economic activity and made life unworthy of living in those areas.

To the Federal Government, the question must be asked: For how long will it continue to help spread ignorance and poverty in the land?

It is improper that in this year alone, the government is setting aside an allocation of N90 billion to subside 150,000 citizens performing a personal religious obligation of Hajj, while only a paltry N50 billion is set aside for the new education loan for millions of students in higher institutions, whose product are of direct benefit to the country.

I repeat, it is a contradiction of the President’s declaration while signing the New Education Bill into law last week. He must walk his talk no matter whose ox is gored.

What gains does the government expect to reap from sponsoring pilgrims to Mecca, than electoral fortunes, which itself is temporal?

In contrast, since religion remains a personal affair in a secular country like Nigeria, subsidizing cost of pilgrimage of any faith amounts to subsidizing personal indulgence which is injustice to other non-faith believers.

It is time for Nigeria to set its priorities right and make a bold move to separate development from religion if the nation is to grow.

 

GTCO NETWORK PAINS AND EXCUSES

Until Monday evening when it came out with a terse statement alluding its network failure to a power surge, the Guaranty Trust Bank Company, GTCO, has been rather contemptuous of its teeming customers.

As a bank which enjoys patronage of youths and the upwardly mobile, one would have expected a spontaneous response to its network challenges, which rendered business and personal affairs of its customers comatose for most of last week.

From inconclusive transactions to failure delivery, GTB would’ve paid humongous amounts to customers for the pains and anguish unleashed on its customers in a civilized environment. But because the bank is operating in a lawless environment, where might is right, it chooses to keep mute until the patience of its customers reached breaking point.

Ordinarily, one would’ve expected that a bank with so much patronage would update its infrastructures and capacity quite often to meet emergency pressures.

Attributing network failure to power surge in a country where it is obvious that there is inadequate power generation and distribution is quite flimsy and untenable.

The bank could do better in information management and customer relations.

Customers for purely business concerns deserves better than what they are getting from most business concerns in Nigeria, of which GTCO is one.

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