Arrest Hajj C’ttee Members - Bartels
Arrest Hajj C’ttee Members - Bartels Website
Interior Minister, Mr Kwamena Bartels, has ordered the arrest and prosecution of members of Ghana's Interim Hajj Management Committee (IHMC). This followed the four-day ordeal which 2,700 would-be Ghanaian pilgrims have gone through at the Aviation Social Centre near the Kotoka International Airport. Mr Bartels gave the order when he visited the stranded pilgrims at the Aviation Social Centre in Accra yesterday. The would-be pilgrims have been sleeping in deplorable conditions at the place since last Friday, awaiting the committee to secure flights for them to fulfil their life-long dream of performing the Hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam. This year’s Hajj starts on Tuesday, December 18, and the Jeddah Airport is expected to be closed by Friday, December 14, but neither the members of the committee nor the agents seem to be sure of when the aircraft to airlift the would-be pilgrims will arrive in the country. Mr Bartels described as unpardonable the failure of the committee to secure the flights for the pilgrims after it had taken $2,300 from each of them. He recalled that the Hajj Council was unable to airlift 499 pilgrims to perform last year’s Hajj and that those people were expected to make the trip this year. The minister was worried that the Jeddah Airport might be closed by Friday and wondered how the committee could secure the aircrafts to convey all the 2,700 pilgrims to Saudi Arabia before the deadline. He warned that “we (the government) will arrest the members of the committee, investigate them and put them in jail if found guilty”. He promised that the government would retrieve all the money paid by the would-be pilgrims from the committee members and give it back to the disappointed pilgrims. Some of the pilgrims appealed to the government to intervene and secure flights for them. One of the stranded pilgrims, Madam Ayisha Ibrahim, from Kumasi told the Daily Graphic that she had been forced, under the circumstances, to sleep on a polythene bag, which had affected her body, since she had direct contact with stones. Madam Fuseini Iddrisu from Tamale was sad about the situation and was not sure about her fate. The committee moved the pilgrims within the premises of the Aviation Social Centre on Sunday and erected tents, bathrooms and mobile toilet facilities for them. Food sellers are in full-time business, as they are making brisk business. Sources close to the committee indicated that the ALAMA aircraft from Libya which was contracted to airlift the pilgrims might not be able to fulfil its contractual obligation and that the committee had secured two flights from Saudi Arabia with about 500 capacity to airlift the pilgrims. Each flight is expected to go on three occasions before the closure of the Jeddah Airport. The aircraft were expected to arrive by 1:30 p.m. yesterday but by press time the flights had not yet arrived. Meanwhile, members of the committee were reportedly engaged in an emergency meeting outside their offices yesterday on how to guarantee the arrival of the flights. Later, a government statement said the government had set up an emergency task force made of the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) and the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) to investigate whether or not “monies paid by the pilgrims have been transfered for the chartering of aircraft to airlift the pilgrims”. It said the task force was also to find out whether arrangements for the pilgrims’ accommodation had been made, whether arrangements had been made to receive them at the Jeddah Airport in Saudi Arabia. The statement said the task force would also establish whether the 499 pilgrims who could not perform the pilgrimage last year were being given priority this year. Meanwhile, it said, the government had through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs requested the Saudi Arabian Government for an extension of the deadline of the closure of the Jeddah Airport to enable the Interim Hajj Management Committee to complete arrangements to airlift the pilgrims to that country.
Source: Daily Graphic