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15.12.2007 General News

Hajj In Limbo

By Daily Guide
Hajj In Limbo

PILGRIMS WHO are expected to travel to Mecca to perform this year's Hajj pilgrimage have expressed their anger and disappointment at members of the Interim Hajj Board.

Some of them have threatened to sue the board if they are not able to perform the spiritual exercise this year.

Media men who visited the pilgrims' camp to find out if the first batch had left were not spared the anger of pilgrims as they poured their venom on the pressmen, accusing them of not doing anything to assuage their plight.

The media men who had gone to see the pilgrims at the Aviation Social Centre, where they had been camped for over a week now, had a hard time explaining to the would-be pilgrims that they were not members of the Hajj Board and did not know the whereabouts of the board members or agents to whom they had paid their air fares.

At about 10.00am yesterday, when DAILY GUIDE visited the place, no member of the board or travel agent was present.

The Aviation Social Centre looked busy with most of the pilgrims and their relatives who had come to bid them farewell loitering about.

Musah Illiasu, an Accra-based businessman told DAILY GUIDE that the first batch of 293 pilgrims, out of 499 who could not make it to Mecca last year, had not been able to fly out yesterday morning as promised by the Hajj Board. He said it was unfortunate some people were politicizing the issue.

“Just take a look around and see for yourself what is happening here; people scattered all over the place with no one in particular to tell them anything about the plane which was supposed to have touched down last night,” he said.

“You see, these trips were previously organized by the government with the support of the country's Muslim leadership but ever since our leaders asked to be given the mandate to run the Hajj, things have never been the same again,” he pointed out.

He challenged the Hajj Board to hand over the organization of next year's trip to him and that he would single-handedly do the job without any problem.

Mr. Ahmed Rahim, a banker from Tamale also told DAILY GUIDE that it was unfortunate he and other pilgrims were experiencing this problem around this time, since the borders of Mecca would be closed to pilgrims from all over the world by Friday.

He lamented that most of them had already started spending monies which they intended to use in Mecca.

He added that the situation was especially affecting those who did not have relatives in Accra as they virtually did everything without support from anybody.

Most of the pilgrims DAILY GUIDE spoke to said they were just waiting for confirmation that they would not be able to make it to the Holy Land, so they can pack and go home. They were quick to add, however, that they would only do that when their monies were refunded to them.

Earlier on, the paper had gathered that President John Agyekum Kufuor had rolled out a package to see the pilgrims airlifted to Saudi Arabia without further delay and that money be made available for the hiring of the aircraft from the Consolidated Fund.

It was reported that one of the firms engaged by the government to intervene was a London-based German group, whose 250-seater aircraft was scheduled to have arrived in Accra last Thursday at 10.00 pm.

The plane was scheduled to have run three rotational flights.
The second arrangement involved Dubai-based Bin Shaic Air Service group, with which government had entered into an agreement for similar airlifting exercise.

The Bank of Ghana had been tasked to discuss the details of payments with the group.

According to Andrew Awuni, Press Secretary to the President, government had ordered investigations into the non-performance of the Hajj Council.

Meanwhile, attempts to speak to some members of the Hajj Board proved futile, as their cell phones were switched off.

By Razak Mardorgyz Abubakar