14.01.2008 Politics

The Hajj fiasco: Politics spoiled everything

By The Independent
The Hajj fiasco: Politics spoiled everything
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Barely one month after controversy dogged last year's Hajj pilgrimage, The Independent has stumbled on some facts that put the blame on differences among members of the Hajj Council as well as indecision in certain quarters.

The information also suggests that at some point, Ghana's Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, His Excellency Rashid Bawa, the Ghana Civil Aviation (GCAA) and a Libyan airline are to blame for the different roles they played, which roles contributed to the delay in the lifting of the pilgrims to Saudi Arabia to perform the 2007 hajj.

The paper said information available to it suggests that some people at a point politicised the whole exercise, seeking to play a key role in the evacuation exercise to score political points, and that did contribute to the delay.

The Independent can reveal that, the whole saga of the delay began when one Dr. Madjid brought in one Dr. Fatimah T. Aji, who claimed she was involved in lifting about 10,000 pilgrims from Nigeria to Saudi Arabia, and gave a firm promise that she would be able to do so for the Ghanaian pilgrims with ease.

The Hajj Council, after its meeting with her, opted to do business with her but Alhaji Ahmed (alias Sampson Kwakwa) objected to that position by the council cautioning that, if they are not careful they could lose monies which the council would pay to her.

Subsequent to his opposition, Alhnji Ahmed is reported to have called Dr. Mohammed Ibn Chambas, President of the African Union Commission, for background checks on Dr. Fatimah, and the latter, reportedly, cautioned that the Ghana Interim Hajj Council could only deal with the woman after she had provided a bank guarantee.

Alhaji Ahmed, in order to ascertain the veracity of claims by Dr. Fatimah called the President of Nigeria's Hajj Council, who denied the claim that she has been involved in lifting hajj pilgrims from Nigeria to Saudi Arabia.

The Independent can disclose that, the Nigerians told Alhaji Ahmed that, the woman was a wanted person in Nigeria, and so he (Alhaji Ahmed) met the council and told them that he would not support the move to involve Dr. Fatimah in the lifting of Ghanaian pilgrims to Saudi Arabia.

This drew a wedge between Alhaji Ahmed and the other members of the Hajj Council, and finally the two camps were summoned to a meeting by Alhaji Gbadamosi, who is Chancellor of the Islamic University, and some Moslem elders.

The paper said the stalemate lingered for a week, into the time frame for the lifting of the pilgrims. Treading cautiously,Alhaji Gbadamosi urged Alahji Ahmed to allow the council to involve Dr. Fatimah in the lifting exercise.

Alhaji Ahmed said, he would only agree to that suggestion if Dr. Fatimah T. Aji could provide security in the form of performance bond or a bank guarantee, but the lady told him (Alhaji Ahmed) that, she had already paid $7 million on behalf of Ghanaian pilgrims as a guarantee.

At this point, The Independent said, Alhaji Ahmed informed the lady hat the council had to inspect the aircraft that would be used to lift the Ghanaian pilgrims, but Dr. Fatimah is said to have flared up at the request and indicated that, until the agreement was signed the aircraft, which were in Miami, would not be inspected by the Council.

The lady, sensing frustration emanating from Alhaj Ahmed's insistence, later allegedly promised him some material benefits, but that only infuriated him making him leak it to the council and cautioned them not to deal with her.

The Independent also learnt that, after this deal had been aborted, a Libyan airline also fell in line agreeing to lift the Ghanaian pilgrims at a higher price, following which two officials came to Ghana to consummate the deal.

The Libyans, The Independent learnt, left with two Council members to Saudi Arabia to finalise the deal and the lifting was to start on November 29, 2007, but the president of the airline later called to inform the council that they could begin the lifting on December 7,2007.

Sensing danger, Alhaji Ahmed and the Council, after some deliberations, selected Al-Lama Airlines to do the lifting.

After arrangements had been finalised, GCAA on December 5, 2007 contacted Alhaji Ahmed to inform him that they had to inspect the aircraft before landing permit is given it to fly in to Ghana, following which development one Captain Agyekum and Benson were dispatched to Saudi Arabia.

The team arrived at Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, late on December 7, 2007 the day Al-Lama was to start airlifting with a DC 10 aircraft.

After this exercise, GCAA granted Al-­Lama permit to lift the pilgrims, but Rashid Bawa is alleged to have called to instruct GCAA to suspend the permit, and Al-Lama could not fly in to Ghana to begin the exercise on December 9, 2007 as agreed.

The paper also said another airline contacted Al-Lama with an offer of $1,800 per pilgrim to lift the travelers, but Rashid Bawa again allegedly stopped the deal and asked the council to contact the Chief of Staff, Kwadwo Mpiani, on the matter.

Rashid Bawa is said to have said he had secured an aircraft to fly the pilgrims to Jeddah, but never fulfilled that promise, but when Al-Lama again decided to come in to fly the pilgrims, Rashid again frustrated the move.

In spite of the hiccups, Alhaji Ahmed was told that the call sign - a code that allows an airline to communicate with an airport, would cost the council $4000 per flight, and the council agreed to pay. When Kwadwo Mpiani was contacted however, he was alleged to have been furious and allegedly sacked members of the council who were then holding a meeting with him in his office.

The paper said Alhaji Ahmed confirmed the story and indicated that it was Al-Lama which got the Saudi authorities to extend the deadline for the extension of the deadline for the airlifting of pilgrims from Ghana and not the ambassador or government of Ghana.

"There was politics in the whole affair, and that was what delayed the lifting of the pilgrims to Saudi Arabia," he said and angrily added that "Some of us should rather be commended for our role in getting all the 2,700 pilgrims our of Ghana to perform the hajj and should not be blamed for the delay."

Source: The Independent

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