HAJJ 2019: ALHAJI MANAF SPEAKS AND OTHER RELATED MATTERS

The Administrator of the Ghana Hajj Board, Alhaji Manaf, known in private life as Mohammadu Osumanu Alidu, has given detailed report and updates on the 2019 Hajj season touching on all relevant preparations and arrangements that have been put in place by the Nana Addo/Bawumia government through the Board, working in collaboration with the Saudi Authorities to enhance this year’s Hajj.

According to Alhaji Manaf, who doubles as an NPP aspiring Parliamentary Candidate for Ayawaso North Constituency, the Board, took cognizant of lessons learnt previously in coming out with the 2019 arrangements with the view to ensuring that it presents a comprehensive and comfortable hajj package to all would-be pilgrims.

GOVERNMENT’S INTERVENTION

Speaking to Radio Universe on Sunday, July 28, Alhaji Manaf stated that owing to the laudable intervention of this government by way of subsidies, Ghanaian would-be pilgrims are paying, arguably, the lowest Hajj fares on the Continent following increments of charges of hajj services including the introduction of VAT on some hajj services.

“In all, prospective pilgrims for the hajj 2019 across the world are expected to pay a total of $4,250 from the $3,450 which was paid last year. However, owing to the intervention of the NPP government, each Ghanaian pilgrim is enjoying a subsidy of $500 (an equivalent of GHc2,700 for each) and were thus required to pay $3,750 for the 2019 holy pilgrimage. Also worthy of note is that the Board was able to secure an increment in Ghana’s Hajj quota to 6,000 for 2019, which again, is the highest ever”, he posited.

EARLY PAYMENT OF HAJJ FARES

Alhaji Manaf also added that the “Board ensured that for the first time in the history of the country’s hajj operations, advance or prepayments of hajj fares and all associated costs by prospective pilgrims were complete before the start of the month of Ramadan. This early payment of Hajj fares has accrued so many benefits to the would-be pilgrims in so many ways including the fact that it made it possible for the Board to pay upfront all hajj services to the relevant authorities in Saudi and elsewhere to provide a complete guarantee of these services far ahead of time”.

These services which the Board has already paid for, according to the Hajj Administrator, include airline fares, cost of accommodation, cost of internal transportation, cost of catering services, as well as charges in respect of services provided in Madina, Makkah, Mina and Arafat camps. In addition to this, he said, “the Board, in view of the perennial challenges bedeviling the operation of hajj involving much ‘older people’ performing hajj without guide, the board has purchased golf carts (special motor vehicles) to support the aged in commuting from one place to another especially in and around the Jeddah airport.

COMMENDATION FOR SAUDI EMBASSY

Alhaji Manaf was full of commendation for the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Ghana particularly the newly appointed Saudi Ambassador to Ghana, H.E. Mr. Meshal Hamdan Al-Rogi, whom he said has been extremely supportive to the Board in the organization of this year’s Hajj. Alhaji Manaf also commended the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah in Saudi Arabia for rolling out a number of reforms to enhance Hajj operations for the various Pilgrims Affairs Secretariats of countries all over the world geared at making the pilgrimage more comfortable and convenient to all Hajj pilgrims.

He made specific mention of the Electronic Visa regime which had been introduced this year, for the first time, to smoothen the otherwise laborious processes involved in visa acquisition and processing owing to the sheer numbers of visa applicants. Alhaji Manaf mentioned that the Hajj Authorities, in 2018, decentralized the process of capturing the biometric details (fingerprints) of all pilgrims which was hitherto done in Saudi, to individual countries through Visa Facilitation Service (VFS) at no cost.

FLIGHT SCHEDULES

On flight schedules, Alhaji Manaf disclosed that everything was on course, and all prospective pilgrims, for the first time in the history of Hajj operations in the country were issued with their visas at least two weeks before departing to Saudi. Also, the Board, according to the NPP aspiring parliamentary candidate for Ayawaso North and Administrator of the Ghana Hajj Board, was able to secure large aircrafts with relatively much bigger capacity (450 passengers and more) to airlift pilgrims, which, of course, comes with much comfort and convenience to the pilgrims.

Owing to this, all flight schedules are being met, with the first batch of pilgrims departing from the Tamale airport on 24th July as expected. In all, he said, a total of six (6) flights took off from Tamale, one on each day, till the 6th day. The first flight from Accra is expected to takeoff on Monday, 30th July, till the 4th of August, when the very last flight shall leave the Kotoka International Airport.