Hajj Board Asked To Ensure Success

SONY DSCVice-President Kwesi Amissah-Arthur yesterday bid farewell to the Ghanaian pilgrims on this year’s Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, and charged the Hajj Board to ensure a smooth trip.

The Vice-President, who was addressing prospective pilgrims during a visit to the Hajj Village near the Kotoka International Airport in Accra, also encouraged the board to effectively implement its plans to ensure the success of the pilgrimate.

Impressed about the travel arrangements by the board and its partner organisations, Vice President Amissah Arthur urged the organisers to sustain the efforts and deal effectively with challenges that may occur.

He also urged the pilgrims to adhere to travel regulations both in Ghana and Saudi Arabia to avoid problems with officials in the host country.

Vice-President Amissah-Arthur advised them to observe good sanitation and health practices while on the trip so as to avoid contracting any illness, and wished them a safe pilgrimage.

He urged the pilgrims to intercede for the country while on the spiritual journey, and gave the assurance that the government would continue to provide the necessary resources for the smooth organisation of the event for the benefit of all Muslims.

A total of 5,490 pilgrims are expected to make the trip and the first batch of 455 people was expected to leave Accra yesterday evening on NAS Air, which has been contracted to fly the pilgrims to and from Saudi Arabia.

As part of the visit, Vice-President Amissah-Arthur inspected the various facilities at the Village, including the clinic, the luggage inspection and vaccination areas, the waiting halls and the health and security screening rooms.

Sheikh Osman Nuhu Sha-rabutu, the National Chief Imam, as part of the ritual, prayed for safe and successful journey for the pilgrims.

Alhaji Abdul-Rauf Tanko Ibrahim, Chairman of the National Hajj Board, briefing the Vice President, earlier, said the 5,490 travellers, included 65 officials, adding that the board had made provision to accommodate an extra 300 pilgrims for the trip.

He said 4500 Visas had so far been acquired for the pilgrims, adding that most of those that have delayed were due to the delayed issuance of passports to pilgrims who applied for passports late.

Alhaji Ibrahim however, noted that the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Accra, which has been highly cooperative, was ready to issue the visas anytime the pilgrims secured their passports.

He said NAS Air would be undertaking daily flights from Accra to Saudi Arabia for the next 12 days, explaining that the last batch was expected to leave by September 28.

According to the Vice President, some of the 2012 backlog of 380 prospective pilgrims who could not make the trip last year due to travel difficulties have been included for the present trip.

He expressed appreciation to the Saudi Arabian Embassy for the cooperation, and Unibank, the official bank for the 2014 Hajj, for providing advance payment for some facilities to be used by the pilgrims in the host country.

Walter Blankson, Senior Revenue Officer of the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority, who is in charge of the security operations team at the Village, told newsmen that thorough security and health checks were being conducted on the travellers.

He said their goods, which included medicines and herbal products, were screened to ensure that they do not violate any anti-narcotic regulations in Saudi Arabia.

By Edmund Mingle

 

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