The Hajj Board under the former National Democratic Congress (NDC) administration has left behind a debt of Ghc23 million accrued from organizing last year’s pilgrimage to Mecca.
Sources in government have told Citi News that, Flynas, formerly Nas Air, a domestic and international low-cost airline based in Saudi Arabia, is owed the highest amount out of the larger sum.
Officials of the new government say if the debt is not cleared, this year’s pilgrimage would be hampered, because the airline, which is the country’s first and only budget airline, will not airlift pilgrims.
The airline, which has its head office located at Al Salam Centre in Riyadh, denied Ghana’s neighbour Togo a similar privilege last year, due to that country’s failure to settle its debt to them.
It is unclear how the immediate past National Democratic Congress government accrued the debt, particularly when about 452 prospective pilgrims could not make the trip, and yet their monies were not refunded to them.
For the Hajj in 2016, each pilgrim was expected to pay $3,500 or its equivalent of GHc11, 900.
During the process of airlifting pilgrims in 2016, the Pilgrims Affairs Office of Ghana apologised to unsuccessful pilgrims who were left stranded for days at the Airport and were unable to be airlifted to Saudi Arabia due to what the office described as circumstances beyond their control.
The Hajj Board had promised to refund monies to all those who could not make the trip, but that has not happened.
When contacted for clarification, the outgoing Chairman of the National Hajj Committee, Alhaji Ibrahim Abdul Rauf Tanko, did not confirm or deny the amount of debt except to say that, that his administration will give a full account to the new Hajj committee that will be taking over from them.
He however admitted that the committee has left behind some debt, but said this was not new and alarming, as far as organizing Hajj in the past is concerned.
“I think that it is proper we wait for the new government to take over so we explain and move on from there. Of course there is some debt, but when the time comes we will explain to them and they will explain to you. They know how this debt comes about; it’s not something that is alarming at all.”
It would be recalled that government last year spoke repeatedly about the fact that it had made it possible for Hajj pilgrims in the northern part of the country to fly from Tamale straight to Saudi Arabia, without going through the stress of travelling to Accra to do so.
This was after then President John Mahama inaugurated completed works on the first phase of the Tamale airport expansion and upgrade project.
The inauguration thus paved way for the first batch of pilgrims to be airlifted directly from Tamale to Medina for Hajj.