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General News Mon, 1 Sep 2008

Gov't fingered in 2007 Hajj fiasco

The Brong-Ahafo Regional Hajj Co-ordinating Committee has blamed the Office of the Vice-President and the government for playing politics with Hajj issues in the country.

At a press conference, held at the Sunyani Central Mosque, the Regional Hajj Committee noted that the Vice President, Alhaji Aliu Mahama and the few Moslems working at the Castle, behaved as if they represented the interests of Islam in the country.

The Chairman of the Regional Hajj Committee, Sheikh Abass Ali Hussal, stressed that the Vice-President, was acting in his self-interest, but not that of the Moslem Society, as perceived.

He called on the government to be careful in choosing between the National Hajj Council, which was endorsed by the government in 2005, to see to the organization of the Holy Pilgrimage to Mecca, and the Interim Hajj Management Committee (IHMC), to help forestall the difficulties encountered by pilgrims.

The Secretary of the Regional Hajj Committee, Suallah Abdallah Quandah, also stated that the Muslim community had fully supported the statement by government, to institute a probe into the conduct of the IHMC, which was responsible for the 2007/2008 Hajj mess.

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He explained that the IHMC was the amalgamation of the Ghana Pilgrimage Organization, and old members of the National Hajj Council, which was facilitated by the offices of the National Chief Imam, and His Excellency the Vice-President.

According to Suallah Abdallah, the Office of the Chief Imam, and the Vice President, was not the representative of Islam, and must therefore be impartial on issues of the Hajj, to help bring sanity into the organisation of the Holy pilgrimage.

He recalled that the former Minister for the Interior, Mr. Kwamena Bartels, even called for the arrest of the organisers of the 2007/2008 Hajj, as soon as they returned from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, but it was almost nine months since their return, and nothing had been done.

Suallah Abdallah noted that it was unfortunate that the purported probe had been unduly delayed, with many excuses about constituting a panel.

He said in spite of government’s knowledge of the mandate to a restructured National Hajj Council, government officials, or Castle Muslim Staffers, were entertaining direct dealings with the IHMC, even though they had not been purged by any probe.

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The Regional Secretary of the National Hajj Council said the era of government officials, or at least Muslim Castle staffers, handpicking individuals and imposing them on the Muslim Community, as Hajj organisers, must be considered over, to allow for due exercise of corporate responsibility, by the Muslim community.

He admitted that government had a role to play in the conduct of the affairs of the Hajj, but that should be limited to its diplomatic facilitation, and not imposing Hajj organizers on the Muslim community.

The Regional Hajj Council vowed that the handpicking of people by prominent individuals, rather than the trust of the Muslim community, would not be countenanced, adding that the Muslim community had for a long time, seen mismanagement of the Hajj by self seeking individuals, sometimes posing as philanthropists, and without any constituents in the Muslim Community.

They recalled that the 2007/2008 Hajj tragedy caused over ten fatalities, 725 paid but failed the pilgrim, and the diversion of 35 failed pilgrims to Libya and Cotonou, before returning to Ghana.

It was disclosed that the haphazard manner of conducting the Hajj exercise over the years, had left over GH¢400,000, as at 2005, in the Hajj accounts at the Agricultural Development Bank, without any audit, to ensure transparency, probity and accountability.

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The Brong-Ahafo Regional Hajj Coordinating Committee, therefore, cautioned against imposition by all manner of subterfuge, which goes counter to the exercise of due corporate responsibility, by the Muslim Community.

With preparations for the 2008/2009 Hajj underway, they assured the nation and the Muslim community, in particular that the National Hajj Council, would stand firm and carry out its duty of ensuring a hassle free Hajj.

According to the Regional Hajj Committee, when the National Hajj Council was getting ready to present the 2008 Hajj fare package, the Muslim community was being ruffled from its sense of probity and accountability, by the shameless re-emergence of the IHMC, organisers of the 2007/2008 failed Hajj exercise, with all the traits of imposition, and purporting to take its mandate from His Eminence, the National Chief Imam.

The Regional Hajj Committee noted that it was imperative that the National Hajj Council, as advocates of best practices in the conduct of the Hajj, should deal with this issue sufficiently now, to save the nation from yet another nightmare of a Hajj failure of unimaginable intensity this year.

Source: Chronicle