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20 Aug 2017

President Sacks 3 Top Govt Officials Over 2017 Hajj Scam

Sierra Leonean President Ernest Bai Koroma has sacked three top officials in his government over a major scandal involving arrangement of this year’s pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia.

Those sacked are Alhaji Sheka Kamara, Special Assistant, Social Affairs, Office of the President; Mr. Nurideen Sanko Yilla, Special Assistant, Political Affairs, Office of the President; and Alhaji M A Bah, Minister of State, Office of the Vice President.

They are part of the Hajj Committee headed by Vice President Victor Bockarie Foh tasked with overseeing selection of intending pilgrims to benefit from government funding.

It costs roughly $5000 for a return ticket to attend the Hajj in Saudi. Very few Sierra Leoneans can afford that.

Therefore, the government, with support from donors, usually provides scholarships to poor pilgrims who are supposed to be selected through stringent criteria.

However, instead of doing things the right way, they decided to monetize the program.

There were reports on social media on Saturday that the Hajj Committee of 2017 were been accused of asking people to pay half of the cost ($2,500) to get their names included in the list.

The report also said non-Sierra Leonean nationals from Guinea and Mali have had their names included in the list, apparently have paid for the price.

The Presidency has announced an inquiry into the scam and ordered the officials, who currently are in Saudi Arabia, to return back to Sierra Leone.

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