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04th March, 2016.
The Chairman, Nigerian Christian Pilgrim Commission (NCPC), His Grace the Most Reverend Nicholas Okoh (2nd left); Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Engineer Babachir David Lawal (3rd right); Executive Secretary, NCPC, Mr. John Kennedy Opara (3rd left); with the management staff of NCPC during their visit to SGF's Office in Abuja recently.

FEDERAL GOVERNMENT OWES IT A DUTY TO BE INVOLVED IN PILGRIMAGES - SGF

The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Engr. Babachir David Lawal has said that the Federal Government owes it a duty to be involved in both Christian and Muslim pilgrimages because of the mass movement of Nigerian pilgrims on Holy Pilgrimage.

He made the disclosure recently in his office while playing host to the leadership of the Nigerian Christian pilgrim Commission (NCPC) during the submission of the 2015 Annual Christian Pilgrimage report to SGF.

Engr. Lawal also commended the Commission for the innovations it has brought to bear in the organization of Christian Pilgrimage in Nigeria in spite of the present economic state of the nation. His words, "the Commission's innovative programmes are very important in sustaining the Christian faith".

He equally commended the Commission's introduction of transparent ICT online medical examination for the selection of Federal Medical Examination.

The SGF further commended the Commission's lean workforce despite its enormous programmes. According to him, "I appreciate the fact that despite the enormous work, you have very lean work force, your capital outweighs your expenditure" in the words of the SGF, "the Nigerian Christian Pilgrim Commission is doing well".

Engr. Lawal promised to take up the challenges facing the commission especially the activation of the Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA) signed in 2013 which he promised to meet with relevant Agencies to activate the BASA so that it would reduce the burden from pilgrims.

He equally promised to assist the Commission in recovering debts from states who have failed to pay their pilgrimage cost after enjoying the services of the Commission.

Earlier, the Chairman of the Commission, Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh informed the SGF about the four pilgrimage programmes of the Commission.

He also intimated him that the Commission did not experience any abscondment during the 2015 pilgrimage exercise due to stringent screening mechanism put in place by the Commission.

In his submission, the Executive Secretary of NCPC, John Kennedy Opara gave a general overview of the activities of the Commission last year. He informed that the Commission has 65% increase of self sponsorship because of its partnership with stakeholders.

He explained that the Commission is partnering with the Ministry of Agriculture in Israel and the National Transformation Institute on Skill acquisition leadership Training for pilgrims.

The NCPC boss highlighted some of the achievements of the Commission last year namely: introduction of the Skill acqusistion and basic leadership Traning for pilgrims, signing of Win a trip to Israel, establishment of Mini clinic in Israel in partnership with the Ground Handlers in Israel, the Commission got approval for the building of 15 storey edifice of its mini Israel, inter-alia.

Mr. opara told the SGF that the activation of BASA has continued to be a challenge to the Commission thus he solicited the assistance of the SGF to get it activated in no distant time.

The Executive Secretary was sanguine that this year the commission would be having about 85% increase in self sponsorship.

The NCPC helmsman affirmed: "our Job is not done until we are able to integrate all Christians in our pilgrimage programme."

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