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Hajj is still N1.5 million!

Daily Trust did a beautiful report on August 30, 2018 about the difficulty in paying money for Hajj this year. 

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The report was however marred by a mistake which stated that the average amount paid this year was 1.4 million naira. 

That is not correct. 

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In fact what was paid this year by FCT pilgrims was 1,492,867.15. At least that’s what was advertised by the board and it was the bank draft two of my family members paid.

That’s only 7,000 less than 1.5 million naira. 7K!

However, some, including reporters unwittingly perpetuating that misinformation,  disagreed with me and argued that since I only gave the instance of FCT, other states must have paid 1.4million. To which I replied that they should give me the states that paid 1.4million in Nigeria. They still carry that burden of proof. 

In fact, other states only paid a couple of thousands less. But all of them closer to 1.5m than 1.4m because their various fees  were informed by template that  the National Hajj Commission gave them. That’s why every year they wait for the commission before they announce their own Hajj fare. 

Let’s take example of the K states. Although I couldn’t find 2018 rates for Kogi and Kebbi, so I replaced them with Nasarawa and my state, Niger:

Kano: 1,474,167

Kwara:1,462,390

Katsina : 1,463,410

Kaduna : 1,490,615

Nasarawa:1,486,348

Niger:1,465,500

Let’s take all the usual averages of the sample above: 

Mean =1,473,738.

Median=1,469,833. 

Mode= Not applicable because all numbers appear once. Although 1,462,390 can be our mode because there’s a number very close to it. 

In all the three averages above, the figures are closer to 1.5 million than they are to 1.4 million. 

Like a coordinated arrangement, however, I read about Hajj fare reduction in the Tribune, Vanguard, Guardian (an opinion piece) and Trust. However, Guardian reporters were numerate enough to call the number what it really was. On 25 May, 2018, it reported: “Katsina Intending Pilgrims Pay N1.5 Million for Hajj.” Thisday was not so discerning. On the same Katsina, it wrote “NAHCON Approves N1.4m as Hajj Fare for Katsina.”

A piece in Vanguard went a little further by claiming “NAHCON’s magic wand against Hajj fare” where the writer and my friend (Muhammad Ajah) incorrectly wrote “Every intending pilgrim for 2018 Hajj will pay less in the range of N50,000 and N100,000 unlike what pilgrims paid for 2017 Hajj.” Incorrectly because the reduction does not range from 50,000 to 100,000, because the reduction for FCT pilgrims, was 45,000 not up to fifty thousand. And it will be difficult to find a state where the difference is up to  100,000. 

Indeed, I searched hard to find a state that paid less than 1,462,390.95 which  Kwara paid, but I couldn’t. Even Muhammad Ajah’s brilliant and comprehensive piece in the Vanguard didn’t mention anything less. 

Therefore, while that report was favourable to the Hajj Commission, it is a bit painful to the pilgrims whose actual payment was under-reported. But that’s the way the commission wanted it spinned. Introduce 4 after one and people would think it’s 1.4. It’s a basic human psychological failing to think that way; and marketers have exploited it for centuries. But the National Hajj Commission is not a marketer. That’s why reporters must be careful – lest they misinform the public because one entity wants it so. 

If you bought a pair of shoes for 10,000 and the merchant from whom you bought them announced to the village that he sold them to you for 8,000, how would you feel? That’s not all, the merchants got your friends (who should know better) to spread the false figure. 

Also, a chicken that costs $1.99 is really $2. But this report is saying that it’s $1.

Since last year, many appealed to the Hajj Commission to reduce the Hajj fare – especially in the light of the shitty service Nigerian officials provide. 

But they did not. 

Last year, over 1.5 million was paid. This year, they deducted only about 40,000 naira and told everyone that they reduced the cost. 

But that’s not a cut, it’s an insult. Daily Trust should correct this as they usually do.

The contentious sentence in the report is: 

“This is despite the reduction in cost of a hajj seat to an average of N1.4m this year as against N1.5m in 2017.”

The math is simply wrong! An average of what? Give us the numbers and let’s take the average together. We have three types of an average: the mean, median and mode. Whichever one you use, the Hajj fare for 2018 is closer to 1.5 than 1.4million and I would love to be proven wrong. 

People went through the difficulty of paying 1.5m, but you’re telling them they paid 1.4m. If I gave them 1.4m, no Hajj board in Nigeria would collect it from me. 

If the reporters are insisting that they are right, I want to see the dataset (list of amounts from states) from which they took the average of 1.4m. 

Really, this is injustice to the reader and it appears that the reporters are unwittingly doing the bidding of the Hajj Commission. 

Doing the bidding of the commission can happen unwittingly, since the commission sponsors journalists for Hajj.  While I commended the reporters concerned for doing a good job, I also believe they should be the kind of reporters to take corrections.

The first time I nudged their attention to this mistake, they inundated me with templates and dollars – and how it was difficult for NAHCON to reduce fare. But they miss the point. 

My questions are two:

1. Has the Hajj fare been reduced? The difference with what my family paid last year and this year is 45K. To me, that is not a reduction. For those who said it is a reduction, I concede the point to them. 

2. Is Hajj for 2018 1.4 million or 1.5 million? I said it’s 1.5 million and I gave you the evidence. Those who are saying it’s 1.4 million should bring their own evidence and if they can’t, they should report what we paid. 

And since, NAHCON has chosen to be dishonest, I’m now motivated to do a deep dive into their excesses and how the elimination of those can reduce the Hajj fare – starting with how much they pay themselves during Hajj. 

You may wonder why I’m so invested in this. But I used to be a chief data scientist who detested how people lie with statistics. Also, the reports are not fair to my family members who paid through their noses to be told they paid less.

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