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The Western Regional Zongo Youth Chief, Chief Alhaji Rufai Tanko Nuhu has called on the Hajj Board to stop treating the annual hajj as a profit-making venture.

He said this will enable more Muslims fulfill that pillar of their faith in dignity.

Speaking at a media briefing at the Sekondi Zongo, he could not understand why the board charges a hundred percent more than the actual cost and still shortchanges the pilgrims.

The Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam, and all Muslims are required to undertake it at least once in their lives if they are physically and financially able to do so. For the pilgrims, it is a profound spiritual experience that wipes away sins, brings them closer to God and highlights Muslim unity.

Ghanaian pilgrims who went with the Hajj Board this year paid seventy-five thousand Ghana cedis (GHC75,000) per person. The Zongo Chief says he spent sixty thousand Ghana cedis (GHC60,000), which is less on his wife and himself when they went privately as compared to the Hajj Board’s bill and they had comfortable accommodation with their private restroom as compared to where Ghanaian pilgrims were accommodated.

According to him, up to fourteen (14) people were kept in a room at the Ghanaian quarters and they had to queue to use communal washrooms.

Another issue was the distance from where they were accommodated to the Masgid. He says this was about five kilometers, a disincentive to some of the pilgrims who had to struggle, including paying expensive transport fares to get there. Frustrated, he said many responded, “we leave everything to God”, when asked about how they were faring.

“I can tell you that the situation that I found those who went through the Hajj Board was very, very deplorable, it was a shame just looking at Ghanaians and looking at other countries from West Africa. Countries like Niger, Mali, Guinea, they had better conditions for their pilgrims than that of Ghanaians. We have to treat people better. We have to treat people with respect,” he said.

The Zongo Chief said pilgrims from parts of Nigeria paid $3,350 which translates to fifty-one thousand Ghana cedis (GHC51,000), way below what their Ghanaian counterparts were paying. He has called on the Hajj Board to do better.

“Hajj is something that every Moslem will wish to perform, but a lot of us are unable to do so because of the cost. I believe the Hajj Board can do better. They can do better, bring the price down, because the profit they have added to the price is way too much”.

By Ewurama Smith