- Kwamena Bartels, Ghana Minister of Interior, has ordered the arrest and prosecution of members of the Interim Hajj Management Committee (IHMC). His orders followed the four-day ordeal some 2,700 would-be Ghanaian pilgrims had gone through at the Aviation Social Centre in the capital, Accra.
Bartels was full of fury upon visiting the stranded intending pilgrims on Monday.
“We will arrest the members of the committee, investigate them and put them in jail if found guilty”, he said, promising that the government would retrieve all the money paid by the would-be pilgrims from the committee members and give it back to the disappointed pilgrims.
The would-be pilgrims have been sleeping in deplorable conditions at the Accra Airport since December 7, desperately waiting for the hajj committee to secure flights for them to Mecca to no avail.
Bartels described as "unpardonable" the failure of the Hajj committee to secure the flights for the pilgrims after it had taken $2,300 from each would-be pilgrim. He recalled that a similar situation happened last year when 499 would-be pilgrims became stranded until after the holy event. Ironically, these people could not be airlifted to Mecca this year as well.
This year’s hajj starts on December 18, and the Jeddah Airport is expected to be closed by December 14.
Meanwhile, Ghanaian government has announced setting up an emergency task force to investigate whether or not "monies paid by the pilgrims have been transferred for charting of aircraft to airlift the pilgrims." The task forces members include officers of the Bureau of National Investigations and Criminal Investigations.
The task force is also mandated to investigate whether accommodation arrangements have been done for the pilgrims in Saudi Arabia and why last year's stranded pilgrims were not given priority this year.
Ghana has requested Saudi Arabian government to extend the deadline for the closure of Jeddah Airport to enable the airlifting of its stranded pilgrims to perform the fourth most important pillar of the Islamic faith. Day of Arafat, which falls on 19 December, is the most important aspect of the hajj. Anybody that fails to attend the Arafat rite does not considered a pilgrim.
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