State House, Freetown Monday 13 August 2018 – His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio has met, addressed and bidden farewell to 828 intending pilgrims and 12 members of the Hajj Committee and medical team at the Siaka Stevens Stadium.
The 840 Sierra Leoneans join two million Muslims from across the world who would descend on Makkah for a journey of a lifetime in this year’s Hajj. Deputy Minister of Social Welfare, Mohamed Haji Kella, said of the 473 scholarships 50 were provided by the President, 25 by the Vice President and 15 were awarded by First Lady Fatima Bio.
In his brief statement on the process, Vice President Dr. Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh, who superintended the peaceful process, said upon receiving the mandate from President Bio to lead the preparations, he decided to set up a 15-man committee that eventually ensured that the process was transparent and open.
Dr. Jalloh also stated that despite the limited time they had, the committee was able to deliver on their mandate and therefore thanked them for their patriotic service to the nation.
“Preparations for this year’s Hajj was late because of the elections but with dedication, the committee was able to meet their timeline. This year’s distribution process was open, inclusive and transparent and because of that our government was able to secure twenty-eight additional spaces for the first time ever,” he said, adding that the Bio administration was working with the Government of Saudi Arabia to increase the country’s quota from 800 to 1,500 next year.
On his part, President Bio said he was pleased with the manner in which the selection process was done across the country, noting that it represented all shades of interest in the country. He said the Holy pilgrimage was an important aspect of the Islam and for which his government had placed utmost seriousness to the process and ensured that all those qualified to travel were able to do so.
“Hajj is a very sacred pillar of Islam and one which every Muslim will love to observe. The challenges we face as a nation are enormous but what we have done to ensure that those who are qualified go to perform the ceremony is a testimony of what the New Direction stands for. This year, we are proud to say everyone will travel and no one will stop at Youyi Building or Lungi Airport as was done last year,” he joked.
President Bio also mentioned that with this achievement, his government was able to change the face of the Ministry of Social Welfare from one that was known for disorderly behaviour and corruption allegations into a more responsible one capable of handling any challenge, hence the result of a well-planned Hajj this year. He stated that the country needed the favour of God to put an end to the turbulent moments she had experienced, and therefore pleaded to the would-be participants to use the opportunity to pray for the government and the people of Sierra Leone.