Aliu in Trouble
2007-01-03 17:06:58This article has been read 1113 times.
Even before the news about his son’s involvements and what has been christened as a gang swindle of an Accra-based businessman could die down, the Vice President has again been embroiled in another controversial saga, this time about his involvement in matters related to this year’s organization of Hajj, which has already recordered massive failures.
Before the hundreds of Muslims who wanted to fulfill their cherished religious dreams of visiting the holy land of Mecca, could realize that their dreams could not materialize, accusations were flying in the direction of the Vice President, Alhaji Aliu Mahama, for having a hand in the sorry situation of the prospective pilgrims.
Alhaji Asuma Banda, a known businessman and transporter of Antrak Air fame, was at the Aviance cargo section of the Kotoka International Airport, where the stranded Muslims had converged to assure the prospective pilgrims that the Chief of Staff and Government for that matter, was making contacts to try and clean up the mess, which he directly held the Vice President liable for.
Alhaji Banda disclosed that the Vice president had hijacked the Hajj pilgrimage from the Chief Imam, after the president had asked that the Office of the Chief Imam handled it.
Incidentally, as Alhaji Banda was lamenting at the Aviance Cargo village on why no Government official was present and allowing only officials of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) to be commiserating with the stranded pilgrims, the Veep’s spokesperson, Mr. Yaw Buabeng Asamoah was accusing the Alhaji of mixing business with politics. He dismissed Alhaji Banda’s accusations.
Alhaji Banda’s Antrak Air had, a week earlier, concluded lifting pilgrims from Mali to the holy land of Mecca, Chronicle gathered.
Alhaji Mohammed Mumuni, a former Minister of state, and running mate of Prof. John Evans Atta Mills in the 2004 elections, who has been quiet since the elections, surfaced at the grounds last Saturday at 12:45 p.m. He said from all indications it looked like the organization had broken down and called for government’s intervention.
He said he was hoping that Vice President Alhaji Aliu Mahama, himself a Muslim, would have ensured that government facilitated the trip of the pilgrims, since at that stage, it was only at the governmental level that any concessions could be given the Ghanaian pilgrims.
When his attention was drawn to the fact that there were already accusations against the Vice President for having contributed to the crisis at hand, he said he was not so much concerned about who caused the mess, but even if that was the case, then it was more important that Alhaji Aliu made amends by getting involved to clean it.
To a suggestion that even government’s intervention might not yield results going by the fact that last year, the Saudi authorities would not hear the plea of Nigerian president, Olusegun Obasanjo, on behalf of about 40,000 stranded pilgrims, Alhaji Mumuni said he believed Ghana’s government had a better leverage with the Saudi counterpart than the Nigerians.
He deplored the lack of communication with the pilgrims by the organizers, declaring that at that stage the responsibility was on government to intervene to facilitate the pilgrims’ trip.
Members of the Hajj Council, the body co-ordinating the pilgrimage, were mostly nowhere to be found. When The Chronicle eventually caught up with the Executive secretary, Alhaji Nuhu Kamagtey last Sunday, he told the paper that they were having meetings with government officials, hence their unavailability.
Alhaji Mumuni appealed to the pilgrims to remain calm, since according to him if it was Allah’s will that they made the trip nothing could prevent them from making it.
A three-member committee set up by the Vice president to transform two reports, one on a Hajj Conference held in April last year and the other, that of a fact-finding committee set up by the National Chief Imam, fell short of expectations.
A draft copy (it has not been finalized yet) of the recommendations by the three-member committee, chaired by Dr. Ahmed Abdulahi Issaka, with Alhaji Abass of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Mr. Yaw Buabeng Asamoah of the Office of the Vice President as Secretary, failed to capture the all-important issues of Air operations that include airline arrangements and financial transactions.
The recommendations of this committee, however, led to the formation of the Hajj Council, whose inauguration by the Chief of Staff, Mr. Kwadwo Mpiani, in late September last year attracted flak from the Federation of Muslim Councils (Gh) (FMC).
The Chronicle sources close to Council indicated that while some of its four key members, were handpicked by the office of the vice president, the Executive Secretary, Alhaji Nuhu Kamagtey, a long-time friend of the Vice president was imposed on the Council. He was said to have been introduced to the Council by Mr. Buabeng Asamoah as their Executive Secretary, which members accepted subject to confirmation.
Again, Alhaji Aliu’s Special Assistant, Alhaji Haruna Aremeyaw was said to have walked to the Imam of the Alhul-suna-wa-jamah to ask for Alhaji Lukman Usman, a friend of the Veep as a representative of the group.
Protest by FMC By a protest letter dated October 24, under the heading, INAUGURATION OF A CONTROVERSIAL NATIONAL HAJJ COUNCIL / UNDUE INTERFERENCE IN ISLAMIC AFFAIRS, the FMC vehemently protested against the inauguration of the Hajj Council for Ghanaian Muslims by the Chief of Staff.
The FMC, supporting its argument with constitutional provisions, questioned the basis for the Castle’s involvement in constituting Hajj Council, a purely religious body without consulting the constitutionally recognised FMC. It argued further, if the President, for instance simply because he is a Christian can go ahead to constitute a body to oversee a purely Christian activity.
FMC stated that it was unbelievable that the President’s office would appoint members of an NGO, but for the political authority at the Castle. It further indicated that it had earlier written to the Vice president advising him to steer off “Islamic/Muslims’ affairs, especially the Hajj pilgrimage.”
The Islamic body in the protest letter traced Government’s direct involvement in the Hajj as when government had to provide scarce foreign exchange to facilitate the trips. The FMC argued that since agents and other stakeholders have had to depend on forex bureaux for their foreign exchange since the late 1980s government’s direct role was redundant.
At the Aviance cargo village itself, the sight of the pilgrims was a pitiful one when The Chronicle visited there on Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday.
“We have become Ghanaian-born refugees in Ghana,” were the words of Alhaji R. S. Mahama, who is currently back home in Akosombo after a failed dream. Alhaji Mahama, together with Alhaji Yakubu Musah (Yak), Imam Abubakar, S. A. Iddrisu had been selected to lead the ‘refugees’ after a crisis meeting held at the Aviance grounds which had become the camp of the stranded pilgrims on Saturday, December 23. They were to represent the Eastern, Ashanti, northern and Greater Accra regions respectively.
Speaking to The Chronicle on Sunday, the four said they went to the Hajj Council office on Saturday, to enquire from officials what the cause of the delay was, but only met many Hajj Agents, who themselves looked stranded, claiming they were also looking for the same officials, who did not show up.
Alhaji Yakubu, was seeing off his wife, Ayishetu Yakubu. He told this reporter that even though he himself had performed Hajj on three occasions in 1996, 1997 and 1998, he never encountered the experience the pilgrims were going through. He had arrived at the airport with his wife from Obuasi on December 15. Some of his colleagues had been there earlier.
NDC By 1:00p.m. last Sunday, canopies were being erected, not by the Hajj Council, whose members, from all indications had abandoned the pilgrims, but by a group led by Mr. Danny Annang, Greater Accra Regional Chairman of the National Democratic Congress (NDC). He told The Chronicle they were only carrying out a directive of the recently elected flagbearer of the party, Prof. John Evans Atta Mills.
He himself was around the place at about 2:00 p.m. His spokesman in the run-up to the primaries, Mr. Mahama Ayariga, had earlier been there to supply the stranded pilgrims with several boxes of Voltic mineral water. There was a scramble for it.
The Chronicle gathered the Prof had been there on Saturday night, and also had water supplied to the stranded pilgrims NADMO The Coordinator of the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO) Mr. Isaac Amoo, arrived at the ‘refugee’ grounds at 1:45p.m. saying he was there straight from church. He told the paper that while at church he had a distress call about the plight of the pilgrims, and immediately instructed his people to come and assess the situation on the ground. He himself was there to assess the situation at first hand, after which he will send a rapid response team. He continued that NADMO had already ordered for 1,200 packs of food from Papaye Fast food restaurant, with water, indicating that NADO vehicles were already on standby to convey the items to the pilgrims.
Mr. Amoo disclosed to The Chronicle that NADMO was not involved in the planning of the trip, lamenting that the Hajj Council had not even informed NADMO about the crisis at hand.
Mr. Amoo revealed that NADMO has evolved a policy that would be enforced next year, requiring NADMO’s involvement in activities that require mass grouping of people. He said this would cover also the tourist industry.