Forex crisis may hamper 2017 Christian pilgrimage
Deepened foreign exchange (forex) crisis may affect the 2017 Christian pilgrimage. The unfolding forex crisis, it was gathered, is coming on the heels of the Federal Government’s directive to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to stop the concession of exchange rate for dollars to pilgrims in the country.
Consequently, intending pilgrims who wish to embark on pilgrimage due to commence soon to Israel and Mecca would be made to foot their bills based on the prevailing exchange rate.
The Executive Secretary of the Delta State Christian Pilgrims Welfare Board, Reverend Oke Akokotu, told journalists in Asaba that the recent development may negatively impact the number proposed number of intending pilgrims from the state.
Unconfirmed sources said that the state had proposed 500 pilgrims for the 2017 pilgrimage but Akokotu in a swift reaction said: “We have started preparation for the pilgrimage to Israel, our preparation was delayed because we did not receive a letter from the Nigeria Christian Pilgrims Board on time.
“However, the good thing is that the letter has come but unfortunately whereas in the previous years, FG through the CBN granted pilgrims concessional exchange rates for the dollars, this year, there is no such concession.”
Noting that in 2016 dollars was being exchanged for over N400 to a dollar, Akokotu disclosed that Federal Government graciously gave the pilgrims an exchange rate of N197 as against the over N400 dollar rate.
“This year, the Federal Government has stopped the concession. So, the pilgrimages would be embarked upon as each pilgrim would be made to undertake the trip at the prevailing exchange rate”.
“For instance, private pilgrims in 2016 paid N600, 000 in Delta. Out of the N600, 000 we provided BCA of 500 dollars for them, but this year, instead of N600, 000, the pilgrims want us to give them Basic Transport Allowance (BTA) 500 dollars or N850, 000, while those who do not want us to provide dollars for them would be made to pay N700, 000 and all payments would be made through bank drafts,” Akokotu added.
He said before the recent development, the state pilgrims board had proposed to the state government to sponsor about 200 pilgrims as against 100 last year, adding that through prayers and fasting, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa will be magnanimous enough to sponsor over 200 pilgrims in the state.
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