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The 2016 Hajj Has Been Successful Despite Challenges   
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Pilgrimage to the holy land of Mecca known as Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam. To this end, Muslims all over the world with the wherewithal, embark on this journey every year. Ghana like many other countries, sends its share of pilgrims to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia every year.

This exercise has had varied levels of success over the years. It is however noteworthy that, the organization of Hajj in Ghana has seen major improvement over the last four years with each succeeding year outperforming the previous one under the visionary leadership of Alhaji Ibrahim Rauf Tanko.

In 2016 and consistent with the commitment to make every Hajj year much better than the previous one, the Pilgrims Affairs Office of Ghana with the support of the Office of the President for the first time in Hajj history, made it possible to fly some pilgrims from the Tamale International Airport. This arrangement was so successful that, pilgrims, Hajj Agents, Muslims and the entirety of Ghana could not help but commend the efforts of the Pilgrims Affairs Office or the Hajj Board as it is widely known. Beyond the Tamale success, the Pilgrims Office with the cooperation of prospective pilgrims and the entire Muslim Ummah, has also ensured smooth departure of six other flights from Accra to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as at Monday morning.

When asked about the secret behind this year’s success, the affable Chairman; Alhaji Ibrahim Rauf Tanko responded as saying “there is no special secret save the grace of God, cooperation of all Muslims and in fact, the unconditional support of the Office of the President”. He went further to note that, pilgrimage to Mecca is a religious injunction and therefore can cause people to get emotive sometimes, especially when they do not understand a particular situation well. In such circumstances, “the tools of humility, patience, understanding and information sharing are what we deploy to resolve issues”.  And he believes these have really played a key part in the success of this year’s Hajj.

On the question of challenges, the Chairman was quick to admit that, indeed there have also been some challenges this year. He mentioned that, the problem of delayed payment which has become more like an annual ritual, caused the Hajj processes to delay by over two weeks. The net effect was delay in the issuance of visas. It also led to a situation where prospective pilgrims handed money over to Agents at a time the quota was exhausted, thus making it practically impossible to obtain visas much less, travel. And when this was communicated to them, some of them got a bit agitated initially, but later understood why it would be impossible to process them at the time they paid. As a matter of fact, there has been over subscription this year.

 Meanwhile, it is precisely because “we want to avert these situations that we spend time and resources emphasizing the need for early payments” the Hajj Chairman stressed. He also hinted that, yet another challenge was the backlog of pilgrims from last year’s which had to be cleared, exerting a little pressure on this year’s quota. He also intimated that, because of the huge desire to journey this year albeit all slots are filled, some unscrupulous individuals are taking advantage to defraud unsuspecting Ghanaians. He therefore called on all aspiring pilgrims, to desist from giving monies to people who promise to procure Hajj visas for them through other means. He lamented that, his office gets inundated everyday by these cases of fraud and urged the media to help his outfit spread this message.

Alhaji Rauf Tanko also gave an update on the state of affairs as of Sunday 28th August, 2016. He said, there are still over 270 visas to be issued from the Saudi Embassy and which he with the support of the support of the Office of the President is working very hard to get done by close of day on Monday 29th August, 2016. When these are done, “am sure we would have succeeded in lowering the anxiety of those whose passports have been submitted for a while now” the Chairman said. The delay in releasing the 270 passports from the Saudi Embassy we gathered, was due to some technical challenges. The Chairman therefore appealed for calm among pilgrims and families. He also urged that, the Muslim Ummah continues to lend the Hajj Office their maximum cooperation.

The Chairman also assured all Ghanaians that, there is still one more flight to fly from Ghana. And that they have also made some special arrangement for a flight to come through Senegal to collect the remnants of our pilgrims who for one reason or the other missed their flights. Alhaji Tanko in his usual humble tone, emphacised that the Hajj Office is there to offer quality service to Ghana’s pilgrims and therefore will do anything to meet that objective.

Meanwhile, as it’s believed in Islam, Hajj is a call by Almighty Allah and therefore if for whatever reason, a paid up prospective pilgrim is unable to embark on this holy exercise this year, the Pilgrims Affairs Office has announced that such a person shall be entitled to a prompt refund.

Recognizing that this year is an election year, the Chairman also appealed to all pilgrims to spare a moment to pray for the nation to continue to enjoy peace and progress.
Source: Peacefmonline.com

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