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28.10.2008 Religion

Organisation of 2008 Hajj goes to court

By gna

The legal tussle between the National Hajj Council (NHC) and four members of the Interim Hajj Management Committee (IHMC) over who has

the right to handle this year's Hajj operations was on Monday adjourned by an Accra Fast Track High Court.

This followed a petition by Alhaji Asoma Banda, a Muslim elder and an Accra businessman, to grant him the opportunity to settle the mater out of court.

The IHMC members are Alhaji Lumuna Mohamed Muniru (Chairman), Dr. Alhaji Abdul-Wahab Alhassan, Sheikh Yunus Osman Mohammed and Alhaji Osman Kadri English.

Alhaji Banda told the court that if Ghana did not send pilgrims to Mecca the country would be banned for five years hence the need to settle the matter so that pilgrims from Ghana could take part in the Hajj.

Alhaji Banda said he had not been consulted by any of the parties to withdraw the matter and settle it out of court but he could not sit unconcerned as an elder of the Muslim community.

According to him the matter before the court was a delicate one and that he wanted to ensure that the matter was settled amicably.

Both parties have gone to court to establish who should organise the 2008 Hajj.

Mr Bright Akwetey represented the NHC while Alhaji Ishaq Alhassan represented the IHMC.

The NHC established by law since 2005 has been mandated by Muslim Community to operate, manage and control the annual pilgrimage of Ghanaian Muslim to Mecca (Hajj).

His was because the Hajj was bedevilled with problems such as loss of baggage, pilgrims not getting to Mecca on time, overcrowding, lack of decent accommodation and suffering of fatalities by pilgrims.

Plaintiff asserts that the Office of the Vice President had not only interfered with the 2006 Hajj operation but went ahead to convince the office of the Chief Imam to break ranks with the NHC and a new body called the IHMC was formed.

In a statement of claim, the NHC, among others, is seeking a declaration that it was the sole and legitimate body charged with the responsibility by the Muslim community to organise Hajj in Ghana.

It is also seeking an order for perpetual injunction to restrain the Office of the Vice President and the defendants from interfering in the operation of Hajj in the country.

NHC is further seeking an order of perpetual injunction restraining the office of the National Chief Imam and defendants from interfering in the activities of the NHC and another order requesting the offices of the Vice President and the National Chief Imam and defendants to hand over all arrangement for this year's Hajj to NHC.

The defendant should not make any public pronouncement or statements in private for the mobilisation of funds for the 2008 Hajj.

The NHC said the issue of an interim body (IHMC) operating the Hajj while a substantive body (the council) was in existence was a burning question to be decided.

According to the NHC, the issue was whether the National Chief Imam and the Office of the Vice President had the authority to take over Hajj when the government, through the Chief of Staff had relinquished control over Hajj operations to the Muslim Community as represented by the NHC.

The NHC contended that the 2008 Hajj was at risk, as the 728 paid pilgrims who could not undertake the 2007 Hajj when it was organised by IHMC had not had their fares refunded to them.

It noted that despite efforts made by the Chief of State to resolve the impasse on September 16 and 18 this year, IHMC, with the full backing of the Office of the Vice President, has refused to accept settlement.