No gov’t funding for Hajj – Sheikh

Islamic cleric Sheikh Arimiyao Shaibu has called on government to clarify its sponsorship of Muslim pilgrims since most of them pay fully for their trip to Mecca.

Speaking to The Finder newspaper, Sheikh Arimiyao Shaibu, who once served as a member of the Publicity and Education Committee of the Hajj Board, said “it is not clear what the nature of government sponsorship to Muslim pilgrims is”.

Sheikh Arimiyao said he was aware that at least more than 80% of Muslim pilgrims who go to Hajj each paid an amount of $3,1000 last year, covering all their expenses including airfare, feeding, accommodation and administrative charges.

In the wake of the debate over government’s intention to facilitate the pilgrimage of some 200 pastors to Isreal, government spokespersons have argued that the state has been supporting Muslims to go for the pilgrimage every year.

But Sheikh Arimiyao said he was only aware that governments over the years sponsor their own loyalists and persons whose support they desire on the Hajj and not all Muslims.

“I know they give free tickets to people who don’t deserve it. Some people sell the tickets to others at a much reduced cost,” he revealed.

The Sheik, who was reacting to a recent call by the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana, Rev Prof Emmanuel Martey, on government to discontinue sponsoring Muslims on Hajj, said he was also aware that governments have also been appointing people to the Hajj Board, but these boards always end up incurring huge debts.

Sheikh Arimiyao asked Ghanaians to demand accountability from government and urged it to institute an independent probe into Hajj operations in the country.

“Just as they informed the whole world that the Israel trip was US$600,000, we also expect them to tell us how much they give to Muslims every year,” Sheikh Arimiyao demanded, and stressed it was important for the public to know how much the Muslim community benefited annually from government.

“What we have had is government dissolving one board and replacing it with another without telling us the reasons,” he said, adding that transparency in Hajj operations will inject confidence in Muslims and the general public.

“I doubt whether the government delegation does what it is supposed to do. Over the years there are no improvements in terms of facilities for Ghanaian pilgrims – particularly in Mina, washrooms and other facilities are so inadequate. There are no established channels between the pilgrims and the government team, and that is why people are not held accountable for their stewardship.”