The president was addressing hundreds of intending Muslims pilgrims and their families at the Siaka Stevens Stadium that had fulfilled the criteria to allow them proceed on this year’s annual pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
“Preparations for this year’s Hajj started a little late because of the elections but with dedication, the committee was able to meet their deadline. 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,” President Bio told his audience, adding that his administration is working with the Government of Saudi Arabia to increase the country’s quota from 800 to 1,500 at next year’s Hajj.
President Bio further informed the pilgrims that he is pleased over the way and manner in which the selection process was done across the country, noting that it represented all shades of interest.
He said holy pilgrimage is an important aspect of Islam, for which his government places utmost seriousness to ensure 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 we have done what we can to ensure that those who are qualified go to perform the ceremony. This is a testimony of what the New Direction stands for. This year, we are proud to say everyone will travel and no one will be abandoned at Youyi Building or at the airport as happened last year,” President Bio told his audience.
Meanwhile, a total of 828 Sierra Leoneans will be joining over two million Muslims from across the world, embarking on their holy pilgrimage to Mecca this week.
A statement from State House says that President Julius Maada Bio was at the Siaka Stevens Stadium in Freetown on Tuesday where he addressed the pilgrims and wished them safe journey and a blessed return.
The contingent leaving Sierra Leone for Mecca is comprised of 828 pilgrims and 12 members of the Hajj Committee and medical team.
Also addressing the pilgrims was the Deputy Minister of Social Welfare, Mohamed Haji Kella. He said of the 473 scholarships awarded to pilgrims, 50 were granted by the President, 25 by the Vice President and 15 by the First Lady Mrs. Fatima Bio.
Vice President Dr. Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh, who supervised the Hajj planning and management process, when addressing the last batch of pilgrims inside the flight at the Freetown International Airport yesterday said he received the mandate from President Bio to lead in the Hajj preparations, adding that in furtherance of that directive he set up a 15-man committee that eventually ensured the process was transparent and successful.
Dr. Jalloh told the pilgrims that despite the limited time they had, the committee was able to deliver on their mandate and urged the pilgrims to pray for Sierra and its leader while in Mecca. He also thanked the Hajj committee members for their patriotic service and went on to inform the pilgrims that the quota of pilgrims will be increased to 1,500 next year.
A total of 828 pilgrims made the trip from Sierra Leone this year, a feat that has been highly acclaimed nationally and internationally.