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Sultan calls for uniform Islamic festival dates

…..Hajj: FG to announce fares soon

Abuja — The Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, yesterday in Abuja reiterated the need to have uniform dates for the observance of Islamic festivals in the country.

The Sultan, who is also the President General of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), made the call at a forum on moon sighting and observance of Islamic festivals organised by the NSCIA.

He said a 25-member committee, which comprised eminent scholars, had been set up to look into the issue of uniform dates for Islamic festivals in Nigeria.

The Sultan, however, urged the country’s Muslims to be united, while adopting dialogue as a means of resolving issues.

Dr Abdul-Lateef Adegbite, Secretary-General of the NSCIA, who bemoaned the divergent observance of Islamic festivals across the country, charged the committee to ensure uniform dates for the celebration of the festivals.

“Given the yearnings of the Ummah (Muslims) for an enduring consensus on the matter, it is our hope that you would rise to the challenge, so that sooner than later, Nigerian Muslims would achieve uniform observance of Islamic Festivals,” he said.

Adegbite urged the committee to discuss frankly and objectively, while avoiding personal and sectional prejudices in efforts to uphold the oneness of Islam and protect the unity of Nigeria.

He charged the committee to adopt a holistic approach in considering all the approved methods in reaching a compromise on the issue.

Also in Abuja, Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Alhaji Yayale Ahmed, said yesterday in Abuja that fares for the 2009 Hajj exercise would soon be announced.

“The announcement will be made very soon, as soon as we clear with Mr President, it cannot take more than one week, insha Allah,” he said.

The SGF made this known to newsmen at a conference on moon sighting, observance of Islamic rites and certain Hajj issues.

Intending pilgrims to the holy land now pay between N400,000 and N520,000 depending on the category.

He reiterated the government’s commitment to a hitch-free hajj exercise this year.  Ahmed said the government would continue to give the necessary support in terms of consular, health and welfare of pilgrims.

He also said though the government had removed subsidy on Hajj fares, it still remained committed to cushioning the effects of the exercise on pilgrims.  “Mr President will look at the various options to cushion the effect so as to allow people perform their religious obligation with ease,’’” he said.  Ahmed reminded Nigerians that Hajj was a personal issue subject to the availability of time, money and good health.


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