Alhaji Zubair Issa, a resident of Aboabo in Kumasi, has asked National Democratic Congress (NDC) activists to stop politicising issues about faith as they are doing with the subject of Hajj.
Speaking to the DAILY GUIDE on phone he said “permit me to ask all those making fuss about this year’s fare to stop being hypocritical and to tell Ghanaians, especially Muslims, where the fares paid by the 452 pilgrims who paid but were not airlifted in 2017 went to.”
In 2017, the newly constituted Hajj Board under the NPP regime inherited 452 paid-up prospective pilgrims but who were not airlifted to Saudi Arabia, but government decided to pay new fares so they could go and perform the Hajj.
To date, nothing has been done in terms of retrieving the monies the pilgrims paid, a question which continues to worry observers of the Hajj, especially when as the concerned Muslim put it, “such hypocrisy is displayed so brazenly.”
Credit should be given where it is due, he said, pointing out that “when President JA Kufuor took over the reins of government, he too inherited persons who paid to the previous administration but could not go. President Kufuor ordered the payment of over $1m to have the 728 pilgrims airlifted.”
Alhaji Zubair indicated that “last year the exchange rate stood at around GH¢7.8 to $1. Today, the Ghana Hajj Board has been able to peg the package using the rate of GH¢11.5 even when in the street it is beyond that. Let us be honest when we seek to critique actions.”
Since 2017, government has been consistent in subsidising the Hajj for Muslims desirous of going to perform Hajj, but this year, following the global economic downturn, this has not been possible, but even then, as the Executive Secretary of the Ghana Hajj Board Secretariat, Farouk Hamza said during an interaction with stakeholders in Kumasi recently, “at the time of the announcement of Hajj package, the GH¢75,000 equivalent was at the exchange rate of GH¢11.5 to $1 is the lowest exchange rate possible under the current unstable forex environment and shall remain same till March 31, 2023,” adding that Ghana’s fare remains one of the lowest on the continent.
Speaking on the subject further, the Executive Secretary said that “Government of Ghana subsidised $800 out of the $5,800 for pilgrims who paid in 2022. In 2022, government subsidised additional $1,600 or GH¢12,500 for pilgrims who paid in 2020.”
Left-over pilgrims for 2022 who paid GH¢26,500 took a refund of GH¢39,000, which included the $1,600 government subsidy.
This year, as a result of the global economic challenge of which Ghana is a part, government is unable to offer subsidies as she has done since 2017.
Information reaching DAILY GUIDE indicates that many prospective pilgrims are paying via the recently launched Ghana Hajj App. Sources from the Ghana Hajj Board Secretariat’s Accounts unit indicate that many Hajj agents and individuals are now using the app to make their Hajj payments.
By Ebenezer Amponsah