The Pilgrims Affairs Office Of Ghana (PAOG) yesterday announced the 2017 Hajj package during a press conference at the Hajj Village.
Pilgrims according to the Chairman of the board of the PAOG, Sheikh I.C. Quaye, a large turnout of pilgrims agents and media practitioners will pay an amount of $3450 which translates to GH¢15,000.
An additional $100 was added yesterday after the fare had earlier been pegged at $3350. This followed the receipt a correspondence from the Saudi authorities that it is now mandatory for all pilgrims to live in airconditioned tents on Mount Arafat. Previously the decision to opt for an airconditioned or otherwise was at the discretion of the pilgrims.
The chairman assured that arrangements are far advanced to airlift the 411 pilgrims who were unable to make the Hajj last year after paying their fares and other related charges.
This year’s package followed an earlier trip by a five-man Ghanaian delegation for briefing on the quota for the country and other modalities for the pending Hajj.
It was during the trip, he said, that fruitful negotiations to our advantage were reached adding this would witness positive changes such as the feeding of pilgrims in Madina and in Jeddah prior to the departure of pilgrims to Accra and Tamale. This, he said, was at the instance of the Saudi authorities but continuing he said “we succeeded in getting them to allow us to bring in our women to cook for us since most Ghanaian pilgrims are not used to Saudi diets.”
The Head of the medical team, Dr. Zakari has announced a screening arrangement for all pilgrims with a view to keeping a database of their health statuses. This way their management would be facilitated when the need arises, he added.
On the indebtedness of the previous Hajj, he recalled that Hon Alhaji Abdul Rauf Tanko during his interaction with the reconstituted body presented a handing-over note “with a crippling debt overhang of GH¢24,583, 835.35 being outstanding payment to be made in respect of 2015 and 2016 Hajj.”
According to him the Hajj management body had to pay for the monies owed the Saudi authorities lest we are debarred as a country from performing the religious activity this year.
The appropriate state agency, he assured, would take over the debt issue adding the Hajj package this year is inclusive of the uniformed bags previously bought separately by pilgrims.
The Tamale Airport would continue to be used for the airlifting of pilgrims but he charged sponsors of would-be pilgrims to start processing the vital documents because the deadlines would be strictly enforced this year.
The Saudi authorities, he went on, have indicated that they would deduct the number of pilgrims who would be illegally staying back in the Kingdom from the quota of the offending nation as sanction. He warned “the board shall be instituting stringent measures in collaboration with the security agencies, immigration and human trafficking organizations to flush out miscreants who engage in this human trafficking business. Hajj is a sacred duty and must be respected and guarded from unscrupulous persons.”
By A.R. Gomda