Hajj fiasco - lawyer sues committee
An Accra legal practitioner, Mr Daniyal Abdul-Karim, has sued members and advisors of the Interim Hajj Management Committee (IHMC) on his behalf and on behalf of all the pilgrims for a breach of contract.
Abdul-Karim who withdrew from embarking on this year's pilgrimage (Hajj) following the delay by the Hajj Committee to secure flights to airlift the pilgrims, prayed the Commercial Division of the High Court to slap punitive, aggravated and exemplary damages against the members and advisors of the Hajj Committee for negligence.
A statement of claim dated December 20, 2007, requested the court to direct members of the Hajj Committee to refund the $2,300 to all pilgrims who could not make it to Saudi Arabia.
It asked for general damages against the members of the Hajj Committee for breach of contract.
The statement also requested a declaration pursuant to Article 15 of the 1992 Constitution that the overall treatment given to the pilgrims at the makeshift camp set up by the IHMC near the airport was degrading, dehumanising and that the pilgrims were subjected to treatment which detracted from their worth and dignity as human beings.
It also asked the court for "such further and other relief” as it might seem fit.
On the breach of contract, Mr Abdul Karim's solicitor, Solomon Korli, said the IHMC was unable to provide aircraft at the times agreed upon, (on or about December 7, 2007) until after, the expiry of the official closing date of the King Abdul-Aziz Airport in Jeddah on December 14, 2007.
The solicitor said the defendants "would not have been able to transport one pilgrim but for the intervention of the government which negotiated and secured an extension of the closing date of the Jeddah Airport and arranged for additional aircraft to augment the number secured by the defendants outside of the agreed time frame".
He indicated that as the closure of the Jeddah Airport was imminent, some pilgrims called off the trip altogether while others made alternative arrangements and travelled to Saudi Arabia by themselves.
"Notwithstanding the non-availability of any aircraft within the time frame and in rapid succession, the defendants negligently caused the pilgrims to camp in Accra under very appalling conditions. When the aeroplanes finally arrived, the entire boarding process was chaotic as pilgrims were compelled to part with various sums of money for boarding passes and were further compelled by the absence of order to struggle to board them in order to secure seats on the aircraft," the solicitor said.
He argued that the members of the Hajj Council failed to take reasonable care in preparing for the Hajj and that if the members had acted prudently, they would not have failed to procure adequate aeroplanes to transport all the pilgrims in good time to perform the Hajj.