Amidst Hunger, Poverty, and Shortage of Teachers, Bauchi  6 Other Northern States Recklessly Subsidize Hajj with 11 billion Naira

Amidst unprecedented hunger and poverty in Nigeria particularly prevalent in the North, Bauchi and six other state governments from northern Nigeria have cumulatively subsidized the 2024 Hajj exercise to the holy land of Mecca and Medina in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with a whopping N10,979, 667,250.00, WikkiTimes analysis has shown.

The six other states are  Gombe, Jigawa, Kano, Kebbi, Kogi and Yobe.

The subsidy for the rich according to the state governments was to ease the spiritual journey to the pilgrims who are undertaking one of the cardinal pillars of Islam.

WikkiTimes analysis shows that all the states have no viable financial standing and are already trapped in life-crippling debts. 

The northern states given subsidies for the rich to perform hajj have wobbly nosediving revenues amid pressing basic needs that they fail to address.

For instance, the Bauchi state governor, Bala Mohammed, had approved the sum of 2.19 billion Naira as a Hajj subsidy for the 2290 intending pilgrims for the 2024 Hajj Exercise from the State.

The Governor in a statement by his media aide, Mukhtar Gidado said each pilgrim would be awarded the sum of N959,025 to ensure that Muslim faithful in Bauchi State have the opportunity to fulfill their sacred duty of performing the 2024 Hajj to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

While the state was offering such a “gesture” to the intending pilgrims, it continues to lead the 36 states of the federation in the number of out-of-school children roaming major streets without a formal education.

Bauchi states has between 1.3 million to 1.4 million out-of-school children according to the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey.

Similarly, the Bauchi State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), in a report says 79 primary schools in Bauchi state were manned by one teacher each, taking care of the educational and administrative needs of the schools in a single LGA in the state.

The SUBEB’s director for School Services, Korijo Usman, further disclosed that 1,726 pupils were being taught by just 24 teachers in one local government area in the State.

WikkiTimes analysis indicates that with the whopping 2.1bn the state used in subsidizing the rich to perform pilgrimage, it could employ   5,000 teachers and pay their salary for 7 years with the same amount using the current State’s salary scale of N60,000 per month that a graduate earns.

Alternatively, the money can build moderate 20 primary healthcare hospitals in rural areas where health facilities are lacking at the rate of 105 million per one to address shortfall in the state health sector.

WikkiTimes analysis also shows that with the 2.19-billion-naira, Bauchi State government could provide 362 blocks of classrooms in the State’s basic education sector at the cost of N5.8 million per block.

In the same vein, Kano state governor, Abba Kabir Yusuf, also announced that   each of the 2,906  intending  pilgrims in the state will receive N500,000 as Hajj subsidy, totalling about N1.5billion   

WikkiTimes analysis reveals that with 1.5 billion naira, Kano State can equally construct 20 moderate primary healthcare facilities at the rate of 105 million per one to address the dearth of healthcare centres in rural parts of the state.

Alternatively,  such amount could supply and install at least 181 solar powered boreholes for many communities yawing for clean potable water.

Many rural including  major suburb of the ancient Kano City have been consistently hit with persistent water shortages for years.

The State governor, Abba Kabir Yusuf, recently appealed to the residents of the state for an “understanding” as he declared a state of emergency on water scarcity. It is, however, worse in rural areas. Recently, the State announced a water project in a community that endured lack of water for 40 years.

Jigawa state government had also carelessly supported its 1,260 pilgrims with 1 million naira each, which cost the State a total of 1,260,000,000 billion naira.

The state like its counterparts claimed that the intervention was in response to the increase in the 2024 Hajj fees.

 Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics in its 2022 survey put Jigawa state as the third poorest state in Nigeria with most of its residents living in multidimensional poverty.

The NBS figures shows that limited access to healthcare, food insecurity, inadequate education, and malnutrition significantly contribute to the state’s poverty index.

UNICEF reported that 73.9 per cent of children in the State live in multidimensional poverty, with no access to basic health and education.

The amount expended on hajj subsidy is capable of providing 12 decent healthcare facilities for rural and semi urban areas at the rate of 105 million per one in the state.

Additionally, as an agrarian state whose residents rely heavily on subsistence agriculture, the money could have helped many peasant farmers increase agricultural produce to support the drive for food security in the state.

In Kebbi state, a whopping N3,344,000,000 has been used to subsidize Hajj for 3,344 pilgrims from the state with each getting 1 million naira.

However, the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) in  2021 by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in collaboration with the Farm and Infrastructure Foundation (FIF) argue that half of households in Kebbi state live below the poverty line, indicating mind blowing hunger and abject poverty.

With the humongous amount of 3.34 billion naira, Kebbi as a leading rice producer in Nigeria, can supply farmers with 83,600 bags of fertilizer at the rate of N40,000 per 50kg which is equivalent to 140 trucks/trailers of fertilizer to agrarian communities.

The drive would have helped farmers improve yields. 

In Gombe, the State government had paid the sum of N500,000 for each of the 1,273 intending pilgrims from the state which summed up to N636, 500, 000 which can provide about 80 solar powered boreholes to communities battling water scarcity in the state.

The same amount of money could have built over a hundred blocks of classrooms across many rural areas in the state where acute shortages of school infrastructure are evident.  

Yobe State subsidized 2024 Hajj exercise with the sum of N1, 290, 000, 000 for the state’s 1,290 intending pilgrims.

Ravaged by incessant insecurity over the years, Yobe remains one of the poorest and least viable economic entities in Nigeria with most of its residents living below the poverty line.

Ravaged by the Boko Haram insurgents, the state has many of its school infrastructures in terrible conditions.

WikkiTimes understands that Yobe can achieve a lot should the State utilize the 1.2 billion naira to provide water or agricultural inputs for peasant farmers. Many poorly motivated farmers struggle to survive the evolving impact of climate change and desertification.

The allocation of funds towards Hajj subsidies raises questions regarding pressing issues that could be addressed using those funds in the states.

The states especially Bauchi and Kano have a huge debt profile including unsettled accumulated gratuities over the years.

Observers argue that there is an urgent need to address poverty, hunger, and healthcare challenges especially for the vulnerable people in the states.

The funds from Hajj subsidies could have addressed these critical needs transforming the wellbeing of the people of the states, leading to a more equitable and prosperous society.

Hajj holds significant importance in Islam, but it’s obligatory on only those who can afford it.

Islamic Clerics Differ On Hajj Subsidy 

Professor Mansur Isah Yelwa, a renowned Islamic cleric, said the decision of some state governments to subsidise Hajj for its intending pilgrims, from the religious point of view, isn’t just an assistance to the beneficiaries but also an obligation of the government. 

He said Islam permits and encourages such kinds of assistance by the government to create a supportive environment for citizens to fulfil religious obligations. 

When asked whether Islam allows such kinds of subsidy when there are critical areas of common needs, Professor Yelwa said, “Yes. The government’s involvement and services should be in both general and specific objectives. This (Hajj subsidy) is among the specific.” 

However, Dr Ibrahim Adam Umar Disina, Chief Imam of Masjidu-Rrahma Bauchi, said that while pilgrimage is compulsory for individuals who have the means and resources, the government doesn’t need to offer Hajj subsidy where there is a favourable economic environment that could warrant intending pilgrims to cater for themselves. 

“Each time Almighty Allah mentioned Hajj in the Qur’an, He will say for those who have means to go but not the means of the government or someone else’.”

“Ordinarily, you cannot use resources meant for something else to support pilgrims to the Holy Land. However, considering the Nigerian context, the same subsidy should be extended to adherents of other religions for balance and fairness to them. 

He said if we are certain that the money being spent to subsidise Hajj would be put to better use in other sectors of critical common needs, such subsidies are unnecessary.

Dr Disina said, “Where there is a culture of accountability and transparency in the administration and application of public funds, it is needless for the government to subsidize Hajj.”

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