The Executive Secretary, Nigeria Christian Pilgrim Commission (NCPC), Mr John-Kennedy Opara, said on Thursday that pilgrimages would not be successful without the involvement of the Federal Government.
Opara said this at a Forum of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja while reacting to calls for the stoppage of government involvement in and sponsorship of pilgrimages in the country.
He observed that it was the duty of every responsive and responsible government to be interested in the welfare of its citizens, hence the need for its involvement in pilgrimages.
“The Federal Government and state governments per se are not solely in charge of the pilgrimage operations.
“There is no responsible government that will not be interested in the massive movement of people – whether Muslims or Christians.
“For example, for the Hajj, we carry about 80,000 Nigerians to Saudi Arabia without the Federal Government involvement?
“You carry about 30,000 Nigerians to Israel. It is not possible without the government involvement.
“Government must be involved. Government must take part in the welfare and well-being of its citizens.
“Of course there is no responsible government that would listen to that call.“
Opara said that government saw both the Muslim and Christian pilgrimages as avenues for moral and spiritual transformation of the citizens toward national development.
He said that government had the right to sponsor some pilgrims as a way of helping the people gain knowledge and exposure to better ways of doing things.
“There is no legacy when you don’t have human minds that are developed. If these people are transformed morally and spiritually, they will try to sustain the legacy of the government.
“I mean people are gainfully employed. I know how much we generate as a commission and we pay to government.
“Government support must always be confined to the area of consular and medical services. And there is nothing wrong if the government has the means of sponsoring them.“ (NAN)