Accra, Nov. 12, GNA - The Pilgrims Affairs Office of Ghana (PAOG) at the weekend organised a thanksgiving service in Accra to thank God for a successful Hajj 2017.
The ceremony brought together Hajj Agents, Ghana Immigration Service, Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority, Ghana Airport, the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority and other Security Services and stakeholders in the Hajj Industry.
It also brought together all the 10 Regional Imams across the country, Muslim chiefs and opinion leaders and some pilgrims who embarked on the 2017 pilgrimage.
Sheikh Ibrahim cudjoe Quaye, Chairman of the PAOG thank President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo and Vice President Alhaji Dr Mahamadu Bawumia for their support and commitment shown in making the 2017 Hajj successful.
This he said for the first time, government had intervened to clear a debt of GH¢ 31 million incured by the previous Board to airlift 452 left-over would be pilgrims in 2016 on compassionate grounds to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Sheikh Quaye said a record was set for the first time as the luggage allowed for pilgrims was increased from 46 to 50 kilogrammes, as every additional kilogramme attracted Saudi Arabian Riyals (SAR) 10 as compared to 2016 when additional kilos were charged of SAR30.
He said this mechanisms were done to ease the financial burdens of pilgrims in accordance with the national aspiration of the government of President Akufo-Addo.
The Board also built a clinic in the premises of the Hajj Village and proceeded to set up six temporal clinics in Saudi Arabia to ensure that the health of Ghanaian pilgrims were well managed.
The Chairman said, a newly Hajj policy instituted by the Saudi Arabia Ministry of Hajj to discourage pilgrims from performing multiple times of Hajj attracts a levy of SAR500 chargeable per pilgrims was borne by the Board.
He said pilgrims were fed in Madina upon arrival and at the Jeddah Airport before departure back to Ghana and that innovations were done to send a signal to the Ghanaian Muslim Ummah that the Akufo-Addo government was delivering its promises.
Sheikh Quaye said Ghana was credited as the first country in the world to pay its Hajj fees including all service providers this year, a Hajj regulatory requirement for clearance by the Ministry of Hajj in Makkah, adding that, “not a single paid pilgrim out of the 6,400 was deported as compared to the 40 paid pilgrims that were deported last year.
He said as any human institution, the Board experience some resolvable challenges beyond its control but had to be circumspect for national security and diplomatic reasons and that a case in point, the Board was confronted with accommodation challenges, a dilemma which the Board drew the attention of the Saudi Arabian Police to eject illegal Ghanaian immigrants who invaded the hotels and camps of Ghanaian pilgrims in Makkah and Mina.
“There were also a category that got their visas independently, whilst others from neighbouring Gulf countries ended up with the Ghanaian contingent with the cooperation of the Ghanaian pilgrims.”
The Chairman thanked President Akufo-Addo and his Vice, Alhaji Dr Bawumia, the Saudi Arabian Embassy, especially the Ambassador, the National Chief Imam, the Board members and all stakeholders in the industry for their contributions towards a successful Hajj 2017.
The Vice President was represented by Alhaji Ibrahim Adjei, Executive Member of the Office of the President.
The PAOG also called on all pilgrims whose luggage were left in Saudi Arabia due to the non- availability of air carriage space to visit the Hajj Village with their passports and receipts for identification and collection.GNA