THE Nigerian Christian Pilgrim Commission,NCPC, has been commended for the effective and efficient way it has managed the Nigeria Christian Pilgrim-age exercise to the Holy Land.

The commendation was made recently by the Israeli Ambassador to Nigeria, Ambassador Moshe Ram during a courtesy visit to the execu-tive secretary of the Niger-ia Christian Pilgrim Com-mission, Mr. John Ken-nedy Opara at the corpor-ate headquarters of NCPC in Garki II, Abuja.

Amb. Ram described his visit to the NCPC offices as long overdue, consider-ing the long standing rel-ations between the state of Israel and Nigeria, espec-ially in the area of Christ-ian pilgrimage to the Holy Land. He, however, said it was better late than never. In his words: “Israel is very appreciative of this traffic, the largest organized pilgrimage exercise to Israel”.

He further described the relationship between Israel and NCPC as very strong, adding; “it is not a relationship based on mere formal relationship, we feel that the level of relationship of our count-ries is enhanced by people to people”.

Ram described the move-ment of 20,000 pilgrims from Nigeria to Israel on pilgrimage as a great boost to the economy of his country, especially the tourism industry, pointing out; “the only steady com-ponents that go to Israel regardless of the security challenges are Niger-ians”.

He affirmed that at a stage in the life of Israel, the economy was at its lowest ebb due to insecurity and lack of peace in the Middle East, but the country had to rely heavily on the tourism industry which Nigeria was the arrowhead because of the economic impact of the large number of pilgrims from Nigeria to Israel.

The envoy further expl-ained that Israel had been able to tackle most of its security challenges such as suicide bombings, hence the country is now very peaceful and friendly for visitors, assuring that this kind of friendship between the two countries will continue to grow from strength to strength as “it gives another layer for our relationship.”

R-L:Executive Secretary, Nigerian Christian Pilgrim Commission, NCPC, Mr. John Kennedy Opara in a chat with the Israeli Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Moshe Ram (m) and the Head of Mission, Embassy of Israel, Mr. George Deek during a a courtesy visit the NCPC headquarters in Abuja recently.

Mr. Ram described Niger-ia as a very powerful force to reckon with in Africa, promising that the state of Israel would do everything possible to ensure that the transportation of Nigerian pilgrims is very smooth. He equally assured that the Israeli authorities would also ensure that any flight that comes into Israel would be very safe and secured because of the security situation.

While commending the NCPC boss for his efforts so far in the commission, he charged the commi-ssion to see it as a respon-sibility to check defection and abscondment by pilg-rims.

In his response, the NCPC executive secretary, Mr. Opara described the amb-assador’s visit “as a great thing of joy to him,” thank-ing him for all his assist-ance which has made his job easy as the chief executive of NCPC.

Appreciating the invalua-ble role the Israeli Ambass-ador played in resolving some of the hitches the Commission had with the 2010 pilgrimage exercise, Mr. Opara said the operation would have been impossible in terms of getting visa on time. His words: “We really owe it a duty to appreciate you, we are very grateful.”

The NCPC helmsman informed his special guest that the Commision’s calendar of activities was already on course and that the 2011 pilgrimage exer-cise would commence on October 29, 2011, pointing out that the issue of Bilateral Air Service Agree-ment (BASA) was very important to both countries and that the president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan was favourably disposed on getting it resolved.

According to him “if BASA is in place, the stress of nine hours flight will be reduced to five hours and we can get Nigeria Air carrier to fly directly to the state of Israel”.

 

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