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09.10.2008 Religion

National Hajj Council Goes To Court

The National Hajj Council (NHC) has filed a writ at the Accra High Court seeking an order of perpetual injunction to restrain the offices of the Vice-President and the National Chief Imam from interfering in the operations of the Hajj in Ghana.

It is also seeking an order requesting both offices and the defendants to hand over all arrangements made for the 2008 Hajj to the NHC.

The council is further seeking an order of perpetual injunction to restrain the Office of the National Chief Imam and the defendants from interfering in the activities of the NHC.

In a statement of claim filed by Mr Bright Akwetey of Akwetey & Associates on behalf of the plaintiff, the NHC is also seeking a declaration by the court that the council is the sole and legitimate body charged with the responsibility to organise the Hajj in Ghana by the Muslim community.

The other defendants in the case are Alhaji Lumuna Mohammed Muniru of the Ministry of Health; Dr Alhaji Abdul-Wahab Alhassan of the Office of the Vice-President; Sheik Yunus Osman Mohammed of the Pathology Department of the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital, and Alhaji Osman Kadri English of the Office of the Chief Imam.

The writ, filed on October 2, 2008, is further seeking a declaration that the Interim Hajj Management Committee (IHMC) did not have the mandate of the Muslim community in Ghana to organise Hajj operations.

It is also asking for an order requesting the Office of the Vice-President to unblock access of the NHC to diplomatic facilities for the Hajj of 2008.

Among the reliefs are an order requesting the Office of the Vice-President to desist from interfering with the work of the NHC regarding Hajj operations and an order requesting that office to refund, in full, the air fares paid and other expenses incurred by the 728 pilgrims who were not airlifted to Mecca for the 2007 Hajj, plus interest on their air fares at the prevailing bank rate.

The plaintiff is also seeking a declaration that the Office of the National Chief Imam is not vested with any authority to organise the Hajj for Muslims in Ghana, an order requesting the defendants to stop operating bank accounts in the name of the NHC and an order restraining the defendants from making any public statements or statements in private for the mobilisation of funds for the 2008 Hajj, as well as an order to restrain the defendants from executing any contracts with anybody or bodies in relation to Hajj operations in Ghana.

In the statement of claim, the NHC said it was a body limited by guarantee established under the laws of Ghana as the umbrella institution mandated in 2005 by the Muslim community in Ghana to operate, manage and control the annual pilgrimage of Ghanaian Muslims to Mecca.

It said the first defendant, Alhaji Muniru, was a Deputy Director at the MOH in Accra who held himself out and styled himself as the Chairman of the IHMC of Ghana.

It said the second defendant, Dr Alhassan, was an officer who worked at the Office of the Vice-President and styled himself as a member of the IHMC, while the third defendant was a laboratory technologist at the Pathology Department of the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital and held and styled himself as a member of the IHMC.

The statement said the fourth defendant, Sheik Mohammed, owned and operated a forex bureau at Cow Lane in Accra and held and styled himself as a member of the IHMC.

It said the NHC was composed by 10 stakeholder organisations and registered at the Registrar-General's Department in 2006 with the mandate, as the sole authority, to operate, manage and control the annual pilgrimage of Muslims to Mecca.

It said the NHC had a board of trustees constituted by representatives of the 10 nation-wide Muslim umbrella organisations, institutions, bodies and other groupings of Muslims all over Ghana, with a management team headed by a paid executive secretary.

It explained that the stakeholder organisations constituted about 90 per cent of the Muslim community in Ghana and indicated that the only grouping outside those 10 bodies was the Ahmadiyya Muslim Mission.

It was the contention of the plaintiff that until 2005, the Hajj was organised and operated by selected individuals or groups and sometimes faceless people who could not be fully identified or who were not associated with any known umbrella Muslim organisation in Ghana.

“The Hajj operations, until 2005, were bedevilled by improprieties, including the inability of paid pilgrims to be airlifted to observe the Hajj, loss of baggage, delayed arrival of aircraft, delayed departures and other operational inefficiencies, resulting in the accumulation of debts to various banks that pre-financed previous operations,” it added.

The statement asserted that lack of good planning for the pilgrims while they were in Saudi Arabia also resulted in indecent accommodation, over-crowding, inadequate welfare services, appalling sanitation facilities and sometimes fatalities, stressing that “in short, the well-being of pilgrims was relegated to the background and profit was made the overriding motive for organising the Hajj”.

It said added to that litany of shortcomings were other poor pre-departure arrangements that resulted in keeping pilgrims in the open air at places such as the El Wak Stadium, the Aviation Social Centre and other places where the welfare of the pilgrims was subsumed under the urge for profits.

A date is yet to be fixed for the hearing of the suit.

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