Hundreds To Miss 2023 Hajj In Ghana Over ‘Killer’ Fare
Hundreds of prospective Ghanaian pilgrims who wish to embark on this year’s holy journey might miss the travel, because many are still struggling to raise the money, The Anchor has gathered.
According to this paper’s information, the demand from the Muslim community to take part in this year’s pilgrimage has been slow since the fee for transportation was announced by the Ghana Hajj Board.
Indeed, prospective pilgrims who initially began payments by installments to embark on the journey are reportedly going back for their monies, because they cannot afford the US$6,500, equivalent to GH₵75,000.
Some accredited agencies of the National Hajj have also confirmed to this paper that, prospective pilgrims who visit their offices for enquiries never show up again.
One of the agents who spoke on condition of anonymity said only the middle-class Muslims have been paying, unlike in the previous editions which received high patronages from the average Muslim.
He insists, the 2023 Hajj may go down as one of the poorly organized, mainly for the elite, if nothing is done to cushion the poor who wish to go.
Since the announcement of the cost of transporting pilgrims to Mecca, many have expressed concerns about the figure, which has been described as outrageous.
Earlier, a former Ghana Ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, under the erstwhile John Dramani Mahama administration, Alhaji Said Sinare, believe the charges are excessive, as compared to the actual figures.
He explained that, based on airlines charges, accommodation and transport charges, among others, the total cost for the travel is less than what the Ghanaian authorities have announced.
The diplomat, who was not the only voice raising concern over this year’s Hajj fare, insisted that the current figure of $6,500, equivalent to GH₵75,000, per pilgrim, is far higher than the actual cost.
Describing the $6,500 fare as a “killer figure,” Alhaji Sinare said the issue, if not addressed and the amount reviewed, will marginalize hundreds of poor Muslims, and allow only the rich people to embark on this year’s holy journey.
Though he declined to mention any figure, Ambassador Sinare said the actual charges from the Saudi Arabian authorities are nowhere close to what Ghanaian organizers of the annual event have announced.
In a 1minute 52seconds’ recording intercepted by The Anchor, the diplomat said, “I’ve been an Ambassador twice; Egypt and Saudi Arabia. In Saudi Arabia, I know the figures, I don’t want to mention the figures.”
“The figures that they are quoting, almost $7,000, it’s just a killer figure. I know what the actual figures are, I know how much the airlines charge, I know how much the accommodations are, the transports and all that. It doesn’t get near there koraakoraakoraa. I don’t want to create any problems at the end of the day,” he stated.
He went on: “This one I am saying this, if the Muslims in this country…meaning that at the end of the day, it’s going to be only the rich people who will be able to afford to go to Hajj. Now, the common farmer, who has to farm for him to be able to pay almost $7,000, he has to farm for about five years for him to afford that.”
“And apart from that, what about the chop money, his feeding and all that? So, roughly, you’re talking about $10,000 dollars, if you want to go to Hajj today. If you want to go to Hajj today, plus whatever fare the Hajj people are talking about, you need almost $10,000. How many people in this country can afford to pay almost $10,000 to go to Hajj?” he quizzed.
He further said, “So, if our people are going to sit down to be cowards at the end of the day [our Muslim people], if they don’t stand up… and we say we have a Vice President, who is a Muslim? He should tell them, that is his government, they should reduce it to half the amount, like $4,000 and that will be understandable.”
Efforts by this paper to get further clarification from Alhaji Sinare, particularly regarding his purported actual figures, since he was not the first person raising issues on the high cost, were unsuccessful, as phone calls and text messages to his mobile number yielded no response.
Prior to this, this paper’s office had also been inundated with complaints from some prospective pilgrims over the issue of the Hajj fare, following its recent publication carried out on the development, after an interview by Patriotic Muslims Front (PMF).
This paper is also informed that, the government was not able to subsidize this year’s Hajj fares, hence the reason for the seeming high cost.
Earlier, a Member of Parliament (MP) for Tamale North, Alhassan Suhuyini, and a former Director of Communication for the Ghana Hajj Board, also complained that, the charges, as announced by the Hajj Board, is the highest in the sub-region and will prevent some members of the Muslim community from honouring their religious obligations.
According to Mr. Suhuyini, the new charges are astronomical, considering the economic plight that has bedeviled the country.
“I am terribly disappointed at the fare that has been announced, it is simply unacceptable. Not only is it the highest in the sub-region so far, but how can we, at this time, and in this economy peg the fare at GH¢ 75,000 in this economy.”
“Some people think this is luxury, it is not, it is one of the 5 pillars of Islam which Muslims are mandated to observe,” he said on The Big Issue last Saturday.
The Ghana Hajj Board has announced that prospective pilgrims to Mecca this year will pay $6,500, which translates to GH₵75,000 each.
Meanwhile, the Executive Secretary of the Hajj Board, Alhaji Farouk Hamza, said the cedi equivalent of GH₵75,000 will remain in force till March 31, 2023, and may be reviewed afterwards, based on the prevailing exchange rate of the US dollars after March ending.
Speaking during a recent interview on Kumasi-based Zuria FM, he said his outfit will prioritize the comfort of Ghanaian pilgrims who will embark on the journey to Mecca in 2023.
He insisted that the Board was working assiduously to improve on the successes it chalked during the 2022 pilgrimage.
He added that the Hajj Board has tapped into the initiatives of the Vice President, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, and has digitalized its payment processes to ensure flexibility and comfort for prospective pilgrims.
Alhaji Farouk also explained that a payment portal has been introduced which gives the prospective pilgrims the opportunity to pay monies in instalments from a minimum of GH₵5,000.
He assured that the Hajj Board will do all it can to make the 2023 Hajj a successful one.
More To Come…