EXECUTIVE Secretary, Nigerian Christian PilgrimsCommission, Mr. Kennedy Opara, has attributed the success recorded in this year’s pilgrimage to proactive actions taken by the commission; just as he assured that there will be direct flights from Nigeria to Israel next year, reports JIMOH BABATUNDE.
Speaking with selected journalists in Abuja recently, Opara said the commission took time out to sensitize the various state commissions on security issues, the number of people to get to the airports as well as the spiritual contents newly introduced.
While noting that the 2011 exercise will go down as one of the best, the executive secretary said: “We beefed up security around our pilgrims as we worked with the Israeli security agencies.”
According to him, the pilgrims that have returned so far are returning home full of hope and excitement as the commission introduced more spiritual contents, “there were spiritual guards who took them round in line with the scripture as they were not just visiting spiritual monuments alone.” Opara explained that part of the pilgrims’ excitement has to do with the fact that the commission prepared their menu. “We said we will provide the menu for all the carriers approved for this year’s exercise by the president and we did,” he stated.
Speaking on the smooth airlifting of pilgrims, the executive secretary explained that with the assistance of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, all approved carriers were given a time table of their plan which was followed. On the reduction of defectors, Opara said we warned them against such acts because we made them know that there is no country as Nigeria, adding “we have told them to see the pilgrimage as a life time journey and an opportunity to ask God for intervention in whatever they are going through.”
On the Bilateral Air Service (BASA) between Nigeria and the State of Israel, he said, it would be signed before the end of this year’s pilgrimage exercise, stressing that “the meeting is on-going between the Nigerian officials and Israeli officials”. He assured that come next year, there would be direct flights from Nigeria to Israel.
Mr. Opara also hinted that so far about 5,300 pilgrims have been received and that the Commission would make sure that only genuine people are given the opportunity to go for pilgrimage.