I am deeply concerned about the government of the Gambia’s handling of this year’s Hajj. As the 2018 Hajj is approaching there is no specific information on how much this Year’s Hajj package is. The only information received from the Office of The Gambia Pilgrims Affairs (OGPA) is that they are “accepting registration of intending Muslim pilgrims for transportation and accommodation to and from the Holy Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the 2018 Hajj. The OGPA also urged all intending pilgrims to pay a deposit fee of D50, 000 ($1063) to avoid delay in the process and violations of the rules and regulations given by the Saudi authorities. It requires that all payments and documentations must be completed before 14 May. April 30 was set aside as the deadline for registration and that anyone who fails that date will not be issued visa. The press release went on to mention that last year’s Hajj package cost D210,000 and that they are not sure how much this year’s package would be. Therefore, this leaves a vacuum for speculation. There has been rumours that this years package could cost up to D300,000, that is D90,000 increment within just a year. If this is true, then so many intended pilgrims will not be able to afford this year’s huge cost of performing one of the fundamental pillars of Islam.
The sad fact is that hence the cost of the full package is yet to be announced, the OGPA is encouraging people to pay a deposit of D50,000, leaving people wondering how much more they will have to pay. Can I emphasise that in every civilised society, information is key to any meaningful decision making? It is imperative for the government of the Gambia to clear the air and relieve people of their predicament of not being able to budget for such an important event in the Muslim calendar.