General News of Saturday, 20 August 2016
The non-stop flight from the Tamale Airport to Medina in Saudi Arabia on August 19 is neither the airport’s maiden international flight, nor the first time Muslim pilgrims have been flown from the northern regional capital to the Arab country for the hajj, Mustapha Hamid, spokesperson for New Patriotic Party (NPP) flag bearer Nana Akufo-Addo, has said.
Several government functionaries have described the flight as historic and unprecedented but Mr Hamid has refuted those claims.
“That flight is not historic at all; it is not the first time. They (NDC) have been saying it for several days now that it is the first time that planes are flying from the Tamale Airport, but it was being done in the ’70s,” he noted on Saturday August 20 on Multi TV’s Newsfile.
To buttress his point, he cited a book titled ‘The Destiny of A Horse Boy’, written by Alhaji Ibrahim Mahama of the Convention People’s Party (CPP), which noted that a company called Best World Airlines was embarking on such trips from Tamale to Saudi Arabia for pilgrims, until Dr Hilla Limann took over the reins of government in 1979 when such direct flights were discontinued.
He added: “During CAN 2008, the South African national team flew directly from South Africa and landed in Tamale. The Senegalese national team also flew directly to Tamale.”
The first batch of 500 pilgrims were airlifted in a historic Boeing 747 flight from the upgraded Tamale Airport to Saudi Arabia for this year’s hajj.
A total of 1,500 prospective pilgrims from the three regions in the north of the country will be airlifted from the Tamale Airport.
Only three flights have been scheduled for the Tamale pilot project. There will also be eight flights from the southern part of the country from the Kotoka International Airport for the remainder of the more than 5,000 pilgrims travelling to Mecca this year.