Shelve Idea Of Issuing Pilgrims BTA On Payment Cards, Group Tells CBN

Shelve Idea Of Issuing Pilgrims BTA On Payment Cards, Group Tells CBN

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has been advised to shelve the idea of issuing pilgrims with Basic Travel Allowance (BTA) through payment cards.

The advice was given Tuesday by Independent Hajj Reporters (IHR) in a statement signed by its national coordinator, Ibrahim Mohammed.

IHR said with less than 24 hours to the commencement of the airlift of pilgrims to the holy land for the 2024 Hajj exercise, the CBN was said to have directed some commercial Banks to pay pilgrims only $200 in cash out of the $500 each pilgrim is expected to receive as BTA while the remaining $300 will be given via payment card.

“This year’s intending pilgrims have already gone through a lot of uncertainties ranging from forex policy-induced rise in Hajj fare to reduction in BTA. This decision by the apex bank will only add to their woes.

“It is common knowledge that most of our pilgrims come from the rural areas and are not familiar with virtual financial transactions, most do not even know how to use an ATM card. Also, most ATM machines in Saudi Arabia are configured in Arabic, which poses more challenges to even those who are well acquainted with E-transaction.

“Also, most travellers are often charged very high for using ATM machines in foreign countries, and with a depleted BAT already in place, the use of the cards for withdrawals in Saudi Arabia will only add to the pilgrim’s misery,” IHR said.

The group also stated that there are very few ATM machines available around the Misfalah/Kudai and Shahrah Mansur areas where most Nigerian pilgrims stay, adding that lack of access will also be a serious problem to the pilgrims.

“About 75 per cent of Nigerian pilgrims are first-timers who mostly find it difficult to locate their accommodations in Makkah due to heavy traffic and unique nature of the buildings – how will they locate an ATM Machine in such a situation?”

The statement added that most of the pilgrims will also find it difficult to pay for services using the card.

“Purchase of drinking water and other basic necessities will be a problem for the pilgrims this year if the CBN insists on giving them payment cards. Not forgetting that, it is easier for an average person to guard their cash than a card, therefore, the tendency of pilgrims losing the cards are very high. Government policies should be tailored towards making life easier for the citizens, not complicating it.

“We, therefore, urge the CBN to immediately rescind the decision and pay the pilgrims in cash, that is what will help them and relieve them of the stress associated with this year’s hajj and allow them to concentrate on performing their hajj rites with relative peace of mind,” IHR stated.

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