Airlift of 2016 outstanding pilgrims to Israel begins Monday – NCPC boss

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Executive Secretary, Nigeria Christian Pilgrim Commission (NCPC), Mr Tor  Uja, said the transportation of over 1000 pilgrims who could not make the pilgrimage to Israel in 2016 would commence on Monday. He made this known in an interview with newsmen in Abuja on Friday.

Uja said that the pilgrims, who were from seven states and different organisations, could not travel last year because the commission could not process their documents.

“There were two delays last year; first, the Israeli Nation was on holidays throughout October, which was the time we would have started our pilgrimages.

“They were not available to process our visas and make arrangement for our coming. They ended their holidays in October. So, it was only from November that they started processing our visas.

“So, many people could not catch up with the short time.

“Secondly, some of the states couldn’t pay for their pilgrims in time due to the economic crunch. They paid late in December and we have a law from the Federal Government to end every pilgrimage by Dec. 31.

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.

“After Dec. 31, we wrote to the Federal Government to complete the pilgrimage with those who paid but couldn’t go.

“They include persons form Rivers, Taraba, Nasarawa, some from Plateau, Katsina and a few other states, about seven states and some private groups, making a total number of about 1000 pilgrims,’’ he said.

The NCPC boss said that pilgrims from Adamawa may have to wait to be transported to the holy land at Easter.

He said this was in view of the fact that Adamawa had no fewer than 1000 pilgrims.

“We are scheduling them for Easter because if we want to take everybody now, it will run into Easter.

“So we are taking these ones for now and Easter pilgrimage will still run after the airport is opened,’’ he explained and assured the pilgrims that the trip was at no extra cost.

On the 2017 budget defence of the commission before the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, the executive secretary disclosed that it had been scheduled to hold on Tuesday.

He said this was in view of some issues that required the presence of the Accountant-General of the Federation.

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