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Pilgrimage: Jonathan commissions NCPC office

…As Iyal cautions pilgrims over prohibited items
By Daniel Idonor
ABUJA—President Goodluck Jonathan has named the President of Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Pastor Ayo Oritsajafor, head of the Federal Government’s delegation to lsrael and Rome for 2010 Holy pilgrimage.

The president made the announcement while commissioning the head office of Nigeria Christian Pilgrims Commission, NCPC, in Abuja.

He said government had resolved to institutionalise the headship of Federal Government’s delegation to the Holyland, saying that henceforth, the president of CAN will be leading the delegation for Christian, while the spiritual head of Muslims, the Sultan of Sokoto, will be permanent Amirul Hajj.

According to Jonathan, in the event that the CAN President or the Sultan is unable to lead the delegation, he shall have the right to nominate whoever he wishes to lead the pilgrims.

COMMISSIONING—From right: President Goodluck Jonathan, Mr Ima Niboro, SA to the President on Media, Executive Secretary, NCPC, Mr John Kennedy Opara, and Chairman, NCPC/Primate, Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh, during the commissioning of the headquarters of Nigeria Christian Pilgrims Commission, ncpc, in Abuja.

President Jonathan posited that there was need to make the headship of delegation permanent so as to give room for proper record keeping, noting that this was a clear departure from the past when the president at will could just appoint anybody to be the Amirul Hajj or head of Christian delegation.

His words, ‘we have resolved that head of federal government delegation to Isreal and Rome will henceforth be the President of CAN. Now, we want to make it permanent and we are doing the same thing for hajj. The spiritual head of the muslims who is the Sultan of Sokoto will continue to be the Amir Hajj.

Any year he is not able to go, he will recommend the head. We want to institutionalise it so that we can have proper record’.The President charged the leadership of NCPC to depend less on government to sponsor pilgrims to Isreal, saying that they should device means of generating funds to sponsor the less priviledge to the Holyland.

President Jonathan who was presented with an award, a plague for his outstanding support by the chairman of the NCPC, Most Reverend Nicholas Okoh lauded six governors who also received awards for their continuos support for the Commission.

He assured that government will continue to support religious activities as a way of encouraging them to promote moral virtues in the society, especially among students.

The governors who received awards were Gabriel Suswam, Danjuma Goje, Sulivan Chime, Rotimi Amaehi, Patrick Yakowa and Emmanuel Uduaghan.

Earlier in his welcome address, the Executive Secretary of NCPC, Mr John Kennedy Opara expressed appreciation to Dr Jonathan who as NCPC supervising boss when he was Vice President stood by the Commission when it took off as it did not inherit neither structure nor vehicles from the ministry of foreign affairs.

He assured that the Commission would continue to present pilgrims who will be worthy Ambassadors of the country through rigorous screening.

Speaking on behalf of the award recipients, Governor Danjuma lauded the christian community for always recognising his efforts at ensuring peaceful co-existence among christians and muslims in his state. He assured the NCPC that he would continue to sponsor christians from his state on Holy pilgrimage to Israel.

Present at the occassion were the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekwerenmadu, Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Alloysius Katsina-Alu, CAN President, Pastor Ayo Oritsajafor, Head of Service, ministers of defence, information and foreign affairs as well as other top government functionaries.

….As Iyal cautions pilgrims over prohibited items

ABUJA—Senior Special Adviser to the President on Aviation, Captain Shehu Iyal, yesterday cautioned pilgrims from taking prohibited items that could implicate them aboard the plane, stressing that such act could eventually cause flight delay.

Speaking to newsmen in Abuja while wishing Nigerians a hitch free Hajj operation, Captain Iyal, who was one of the dignitaries that flagged off the 2010 Hajj operations in Lagos alongside the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammed Saad Abubakar 111, Speaker of House of Representative Mr Dimeji Bankole and Lagos State Governor, Mr Babatunde Fashola, said pilgrims should endeavour to abide by the rules of luggage.

“I want to plead with our pilgrims to obey the rules of luggage, a hand luggage is a hand luggage and 40 kg is 40 kg, we have had series of problems years behind where a five hours flight for Nigerians, we will spend eight or nine hours checking in the pilgrims because they come with too big a hand luggage and carry prohibited items“ he said.

He affirmed that most of the pilgrims often carry items like scissors, razors, knifes, toy guns, gels, matches adding that those items were not supposed to be part of the hand luggage but unknowingly the pilgrims put them in their luggage which could delay their flight when it comes to the time of screening.

Captain Iyal noted that airports operations have changed in Nigeria since the principle of zero tolerance was introduced noting that security and screening has improved across the nation’s airports.

He also said that the first flight departed at the appropriate time adding that other flights took off after the first flight had left noting that the same would be repeated all over the 11 centres that was meant for the operations of airlifting the pilgrims across the country.

“Unlike any other year, today in Nigeria we have what I can call local capacity we have Max Air that can boast of four  Boeing 747 seaters, we have Kabo Air that can boast of three Boeing 747 seaters, we have Medview that you saw, it deployed one Boeing 747 in Lagos, one Boeing 767 in Ilorin and one Boeing 767 in Maiduguri and they all started operating, all the airlines slated for the hajj operation have the right equipment to carry out the exercise without any hitches“ he noted.

Captain Iyal affirmed that pragmatic measures have been put in place to ensure that all the pilgrims were not only airlifted to Mecca but that measures were on ground to ensure that the pilgrims would not be left stranded in the holy land.

He affirmed that the contract that was signed between National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) and the carriers contained penalty clauses stressing that it was meant to  facilitate a hitch free operations.

Captain Iyal also noted that there was a penalty for  any pilgrim who fails to abide by all the regulations that was meant to ensure a hitch free operations.

“ If you come late even you as a pilgrim, there is a penalty against the state where you come from, if the carriers do not come on time there are things you are supposed to do and there are penalties and the government through NAHCON has obtained slots, more than enough to go in and come out.

NCAA have certified all the carriers to ensure that they conform with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) rules and regulations for them to be able to carry our pilgrims.” he added


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