THE Independent Hajj Reporters, a Hajj monitoring group, on Monday appealed to the Saudi Arabian authorities to reduce tax imposed on visa for Hajj and Umrah pilgrims.
The National Coordinator of the group, Malam Ibrahim Muhammed, made the appeal in a statement released in Abuja on Monday.
According to Muhammed, the Saudi Arabian government has increased the tax paid by Umrah pilgrims from 650 riyals to 2, 000 riyals (about N168,000) with effect from October 2.
He noted that with the tax increment, the cost of performing Umrah would triple because each pilgrim would have to pay additional 2, 000 Saudi riyals.
“This is in addition to the Umrah package which includes the cost of return ticket, accommodation, transport and royalty.
“Based on the new visa regime, a one-time entry visa fee will be 2,000 Saudi riyals, but the state will bear this fee if a visitor is coming to the Kingdom for the first time to perform Hajj or Umrah.
“ A six month multiple-entry visa will now cost 3,000 riyals, a one year multiple-entry visa will cost 5, 000 Saudi riyals, while a two-year multiple-entry visa will cost 8000 riyals, “ he said.
Muhammed stated that the Saudi government had made it clear that those changes would not impact any bilateral deals already signed between Saudi Arabia and other countries.
The coordinator recalled that an estimated 1.1 million Nigerian Muslims pilgrims perform Umrah while 76, 000 citizens perform Hajj every year.
He said that with the new tax regime, at least 40 per cent of intending pilgrims from Nigeria may be deprived of performing Hajj and Umrah.
Muhammed said the new tax regime would reduce the number of pilgrims and impact negatively on Saudi’s economy as hotels, airlines and other service providers would lose substantial income.
“While we appreciate Saudi’s effort at making Hajj a memorable and comfortable exercise for Muslims, the Kingdom should consider the global economic challenges confronting Muslim- dominated countries,“ he said.