Sierra Leone’s President, Julius Maada Bio has given scholarships to Muslim pilgrims out of his own personal coffer to continue to fraternize with the Muslim community.
Apart from the scholarships provided by Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, President Bio paid for accommodation, flight and feeding of those pilgrims who are performing this year’s (2018) Dhul-Hijjah described in Suratul al Al-I Imran as fard (obligatory).
Records showed that President Bio’s support is not only a novelty, but solidifies the existing religious tolerance the country is accredited for.
Yesterday (Monday, 6th August, 2018), a public notice from the Office of the Hajj Secretary, Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs, “it has resolved the issue surrounding the twenty eight (28) people who didn’t follow the simple instruction by visiting the Secretaey to receive its bank payment Slip and authorization and paid after the payment date.”
The notice further stated that, “the government of Sierra Leone through the hardworking Minister and Deputy Minister and the Hajj Committee have been busy for the past week engaging the Saudi Government in order to accommodate those twenty eight (28) people and Government has unanimously agreed to accommodate them.”
“The Government of Sierra Leone through the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs called those affected people and had a meeting with them this evening at the Ministry’s Conference room and put smile on their faces by informing them about the good news,” the notice affirmed.
The notice called on the affected persons who violated the initial instruction to be in full preparedness to perform this year’s Hajj.
“The affected Twenty Eight (28) will now be performing this year Haj with their compatriots,” the Hajj Secretary revealed.
Many Sierra Leoneans spoken to have commended President Bio’s led Government for a well organized and transparent process that catered for all intending pilgrims.
It could be recalled that a year ago, during the erstwhile All Peoples Congress led Government, the Hajj process was marred by corruption which prevented hundreds of Sierra Leoneans from performing Hajj (one of the five pillars of Islam). Muslims are required to perform it once in their lifetime to deepen their faith.
Last month, July 2018 in line with President Bio’s untiring determination to fight graft, former Vice President of Sierra Leone, Dr. Victor Boackarie Foh and the former Minister of Mines and Mineral Resources, Minkhailu Mansaray were arrested and put on two billion Leones bail for corruption related offences.
They were indicted for embezzling funds meant for Muslims to perform the 2017 hajj in the holy land of mecca.
The former Mines Minister was appointed by the former President-Ernest Bai Koroma as head of the Hajj Committee, while the former Vice President has been roped in because he reportedly received 80,000 United States Dollars withdrawn from the hajj account and he has still not accounted for the said amount.
This came following an investigation launched by the ACC in August 2017 relating to the abuse of the Hajj scholarship scheme for the Muslim pilgrims.
In a recent press conference held at the commission’s headquarters on Gloucester Street in Freetown, the ACC Commissioner-Francis Ben Kaifala noted that “our hands are not tied to fight corruption.” He went on to state that my appointment is political but my work is apolitical.”
He assured that the issue of the notorious ‘hajj-gate’ will be reviewed.”
The new ACC boss appealed to all Sierra Leoneans to support him in fighting corruption to make the country a better place for all Sierra Leoneans.
The first batch of Muslim pilgrims will travel on 14th whilst the second batch will leave the shores on 15th of August to perform this year’s Hajj without going through any hassle, according to Abdulai Bayoh, Information Officer of the Hajj Committee.
He informed that they intend instituting punitive action against the banks for allowing payments contrary to the Ministry’s instruction.
By Elkass Sannoh