General News of Wednesday, 14 March 2018
Sheikh I.C Quaye, the Chairman of the Hajj Board, has announced that the fare for this year’s 2018 Hajj pilgrimage is GH¢15, 000, an equivalent of $3,450 dollars.
He said the actual fare Is GH¢19,500 but government has absorbed GH¢4,500 of the cost to enable more pilgrims to perform the Hajj.
Sheikh Quaye, who made this known at the official launch of the 2018 Hajj season in Accra, said the board would accept a direct full payment into the Hajj Account with Unibank.
He said some officials of the Pilgrims Affairs Office of Ghana have been assigned to specifically handle those who pay directly to the Board.
Sheikh I.C said late payment of the Hajj package would not be accepted because it causes delays and makes planning very difficult.
He said the late payment affects the Hajj operations with grave consequences and therefore the deadline for payment would be June 30, 2018, adding that, there shall be no extension of the date whatsoever.
“Pilgrims who pay up before the deadline would be airlifted to Mecca, irrespective of whether our quota has been attained or not,” he said.
He said Hajj fares keep rising due to the introduction of new policies by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which would significantly affect Hajj transactions and services.
He said key amongst these new policies, was the introduction of five per cent VAT on goods and services, due to the diversification of the Saudi economy and its consequential implications.
He said pilgrims performing the Hajj more than once shall pay a penalty of GH¢3,000, chargeable before Visa acquisition.
The rational according to Saudi authorities he said, was to prevent multiple performance of Hajj.
He said there was also an increase in social amenities as well as accommodation, transport, flight fares, catering and general service fees, but with the reduction of taxes and interventions, Ghanaian pilgrims are paying the lowest fare.
He said due to a new immigration policy by the Saudi Kingdom, pilgrims would undergo finger-print data collection in Ghana before departing.
He said medical teams charged with the responsibility to manage programmes that would ensure the effective and efficient management of the health needs of pilgrims both in Ghana and in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia shall kick start its activities with a health screening exercise.
He further stated that, this year, the welfare team would be categorized into three units, which includes the luggage handlers, meet and assist and that of security.
“We therefore call on would be pilgrims to, as a matter of urgency, begin payments now without delay for there shall be no extensions at all.
He said this was important to the Board as the timelines provided by the Saudi Authorities for the payments of Hajj services were so tight and that failure to conform could cost us the Hajj all together.
Sheikh I.C advised the pilgrims to start practising the processes and rituals of the Hajj and Umrah, be physically fit and be each other’s keeper throughout their stay in Mecca.
He encouraged the pilgrims to desist from travelling with prohibited items, as well as human trafficking in particular, which attracts harsh sentence if caught.
The Hajj board, under the chairmanship of Sheik I.C Quaye, pledged that they would do everything possible to facilitate a memorable 2018 Hajj.