FG, CBN, States, Others Sued for Sponsoring Pilgrimage

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Akinwale Akintunde

The federal government, the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, the 36 states governments, the Nigerian Christian Pilgrim Commission and the National Hajj Commission have been sued for the continued sponsorship of pilgrimage by the governments.

Also sued in the suit filed by a Lagos-based lawyer and rights activist, Chief Malcolm Omirhobo, before a Lagos Federal High Court, are the FCT Minister, Attorneys-General of the 36 states in Nigeria and the welfare boards for both Muslim and Christian pilgrims in the FCT and all states of the federation.

The applicant, fundamental right enforcement suit with the No: FHC/L/CS/1119/16 is praying the court to declare the continued sponsorship of Christian and Muslim pilgrims by both the state and federal government is illegal by virtue of Section 10 of the 1999 Constitution, which stated that Nigeria is a secular state.

He also wants the court to declare that it is preferential, illegal, unconstitutional, unlawful and a violation of his and other Nigerians’ fundamental rights to worship and against discrimination as provided for in Section 38 and 42 of the Constitution, for the federal government, the Attorney-General of the Federation and the CBN governor to grant concessionary exchange rate to Muslims going to 2016 hajj at Saudi Arabia, to enable them purchase their Pilgrim Travelling Allowance (PTA) at the rate of N197 to a dollar as against the prevailing market price of N318 to a dollar.

Omirhobo is therefore asking the court to compel the federal government, the AGF and the CBN to rescind the concessionary exchange rate of N197.00 to a dollar and make Muslims pilgrims pay the ongoing exchange rate of N318 to a dollar.

He is also seeking for the disbandment of the Nigerian Christian Pilgrim Commission and the National Hajj Commission by the court.

He is equally seeking for the disbandment of the welfare boards for Muslim and Christian pilgrims in all states across the country.

The applicant in his sworn affidavit claimed that he secured a visa to visit the United States of America for vacation on July 29, 2016 and then approached his bank to procure Basic Traveling Allowances for his strip, only to be informed that the exchange rate of naira to dollar is N318 and as a result of the high exchange rate, he had to painfully put his vacation for this year.

According to him, many Nigerians are also affected by the high exchange rate but it was shocking for him to hear that the CBN had approved a concessionary exchange rate to Muslims going to 2016 hajj at Saudi Arabia.

The applicant is therefore among others seeking court declaration:

“That by virtue of Section 10 of the Constitution, the granting of concessionary exchange rate by the federal government, AGF and the CBN governor to Muslims going to hajj at Saudi Arabia in 2016 to enable them purchase their Pilgrim Travelling Allowance (PTA) at the rate of N197 to a dollar as against the prevailing market price of N318 to a dollar is preferential, illegal, unlawful, unconstitutional and a violation of the applicant and other Nigerians fundamental right to freedom of worship and against discrimination as provided for in Sections 38 and 42 of the Constitution.

“That by virtue of Section 10 of the Constitution, the concessionary granted by the FG, AGF and the CBN governor to Muslims to procure their PTA at the rate of N197 to a dollar on one hand and their refusal to grant the applicant and other Nigerians who needs foreign exchange for health, education, business, etc is preferential, illegal, unlawful, unconstitutional and a violation of the applicant and other Nigerians fundamental rights to freedom of worship and against discrimination as provided for in Sections 38 and 42 of the Constitution.

“That by virtue of Section 10 of the Constitution, the allocation of the sum of N500million by the Federal Government in the 2016 budget for pilgrimage services is wasteful, preferential, illegal, unlawful, unconstitutional and a violation of the applicant and other Nigerians fundamental rights to freedom of worship and against discrimination as provided for in Sections 38 and 42 of the Constitution.”