The Chairman of the Hajj Board, Sheikh I. C. Quaye, has called for a probe into a debt of GH¢ 25.58 million incurred by the immediate past Hajj Board in respect of the 2015 and 2016 Hajj pilgrimages respectively.
Addressing the press and other stakeholders in Accra yesterday, Sheikh Quaye indicated that the key issue about the debt was the component that was owed to some agencies in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia would have to be paid or the country would forfeit this year’s pilgrimage.
“We, therefore, have no option than to pay the debt for no fault of ours. Pilgrims must be rest assured that a solution has been found and the pilgrimage to Mecca shall surely come off as planned. The appropriate state institutions shall, however, take over the issue on the debt for further investigations,” he stated.
According to the chairman, despite the huge crippling debt hanging over the new board, the Hajj fare for this year remains same: $3,450. There will be an additional fee of about $100 for luggage.
“In spite of all the challenges, additional services would be provided for pilgrims in this year’s Hajj. It includes feeding at Medina on arrival and at Jeddah on departure, as well as provision of buses to convey pilgrims to and from the Haram (Mosque),” he said.
The chairman further stated that they were expecting a total of 6,200 Muslims to embark on the pilgrimage this year and that the Tamale International Airport would be used to airlift pilgrims from the northern part of the country.
Sheikh Quaye, however, observed that one of the key obstacles in the operations of Hajj was the delay in the acquisition of passports by would-be pilgrims.
“Until the National Identification Card project is comprehensibly dealt with, this problem may persist, but this should not be an excuse. Relatives and sponsors of pilgrims must start now to acquire all relevant travelling documents since the deadline for payment and submission of passports will be enforced this year,” he cautioned.
According to the chairman, there is a new policy by the Saudi Arabia government to sanction offending countries whose pilgrims will decide to stay behind after the pilgrimage, by reducing their country quotas.
“The board shall also be instituting stringent measures in collaboration with security agencies, immigration and human trafficking organisations to flash out miscreants who engage in human trafficking business,” he added.