Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor, Godwin Emefiele, has said that neither the bank nor the federal government subsidised foreign exchange for 2016 Hajj pilgrims.
Last week, the CBN issued a circular showing that 65,167 pilgrims were getting forex at N197 to a dollar, which is against the current foreign exchange policy.
The presidency had denied the subsidy, saying there was no discrimination against Christian pilgrims and Emefiele towed the same line, explaining that the deal between the CBN and the pilgrims was consummated long before the new forex policy was implemented.
Speaking at a press conference in Abuja on Tuesday, the apex bank boss said:
“Pilgrims made what is called advance payment for their personal travel allowance, in this case $750”
“They make those advance payments to the state pilgrims board, and then the state passes it to the national body, who in this case has reached an agreement with the central bank about the appropriate rate that would be used.
“For 2015, it is important for me to go back. In 2015, when the market rate was 197, the pilgrims commission, Christians and Muslims, actually came to the central bank and agreed at N160 to the dollar, even when the market was 197. That was an agreement and a contract reached.
“For 2016, the pilgrims commission came to the Central Bank of Nigeria, and we agreed that it had to be done at the market rate, which at that time was N197.”
Emefiele said it would be against business ethic to direct the pilgrims to pay the difference in the old and new forex rate, on a previously-signed contract.
“The contract was reached sometime around March and April this year. I would think it would be inappropriate at this time, because the exchange rate has adjusted, that we should go back to the pilgrims and pay the difference”, he added.