The Executive Secretary of the Nigeria Christian Pilgrim Commission (NCPC), Reverend Yakubu Pam recently spoke with a select journalists on his vision and priority projects for the Commission as he assured that the Commission under his supervision is determine to change the story of pilgrimage for the better by carrying out self-assessment and cleansing. The NCPC boss announced that this year’s Christian pilgrimage to Israel will commence in December all things being equal. AMOS DUNIA attended the interview session. Excerpts:

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Priority Projects

My priority projects for the Nigeria Christian Pilgrim Commission, is number one, we want excellent services to Nigerians who travel to Israel. We want to make sure that the challenges we used to have before, by the special grace of God, we should be able to overcome them and we should be able to show the difference. And in doing that, we should start with in-house cleansings of ourselves. This is what we call spiritual purging and checking where we didn’t do well, let us check ourselves and get things corrected. We will to fight against corruption because most of the problems that resulted from there and gave a bad image and poor delivery. Maybe issues were not handled properly and things that didn’t go the way they are expected in terms of money passing this way and all the rest. So, with that again, we have to go to the grassroot to meet with stakeholders in the states because we cannot just do that within here (Commission). We must go to states where so many thousands of pilgrims come through them and make an assessment, have meeting with them and get to know and understand the challenges and see how we can meet them up. So, if we had done that just like we have now done in all the six geopolitical zones, we expect that by now just like we have done in all six geo-political zones, things would have improved.

So, we expect that by now we are putting things on ground on how to overcome some of the challenges we have been told and even those that we feel they have not told us but we know that they are challenges so that we will be able to give an excellent delivery in the next pilgrimage exercise which of cause is going to be our first experience as a new ES to see that we deliver well and the assessment will be by Nigerians and not by us, but we would also be taking note of what we have done. So, my priority now is to ensure that the next pilgrimage which I will be in-charge will be the best. That is my priority.

How I intend To Achieve The Priorities

Number one, is by putting an agenda which I have put down, that is fighting corruption. A lot happened here two years ago. We don’t need to go into that but we want to let the world know that we must correct certain wrong impressions created in the minds of people by checkmating ourselves and knowing what we have not done right, we will correct it and by that we are building a good image not only for the Commission but for the country. As you know, the Commission is representing Nigeria outside the country. So, we have to give ourselves good image locally and internationally.

Two, the activities that we will undertake, they have to be activities that have a national building scope that will help pilgrims contribute positively to the growth and development of Nigeria just like we introduced a peace step and we also want to see what we can do between Israel and Nigeria to help our economy grow better. This is what we have in the pipeline and beyond in order that the pilgrims that go for pilgrimage will have tangible to the development of Nigeria when they come back because government cannot just spend a huge amount of money to sponsor pilgrims but when they come back, they will not give positive result to the society and to the government and the people of Nigeria.

We are embarking on raising good citizens of Nigeria by going to Israel. Yes, we agree that we are going to pray according to our faith but for the government to agree to shoulder the responsibility of sponsorship which cost about 90 percent while individual sponsorship cost just about 10 percent. So, we expect that when you come back, being a state man, we expect that you should give positive contribution to the country. So, that is part of the image building that we are doing for the country.

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Next Pilgrimage

We are having our programme planning to see that the next pilgrimage is by December this year by the special grace of God. Our target is December and we are putting every plan in place. We assure Nigerians that as the COVID-19 pandemic reduce and as the international communities open their borders, we shall definitely go because it is an issue of building our faith. We will make sure that we encourage it even in the midst of whatever so that people can still go and pray.

Absconding Challenges

Tackling abscondment is part of the image building we are working on and strategizing to eliminate. The strategy we are putting in place at both the States and federal levels is for those who will surety pilgrims must be held accountable.

It means that you won’t just carry your pen and surety somebody without knowing who the person is and what the person is planning. So, before you stand as a surety, you should be able to have a conversation with the person and make sure that the pilgrim will surely come back because if he/she doesn’t come back, you will be held responsible. Those are some of the aspects we are putting in place and there are other ones. We just decided to reveal this one but there are other ones that we are keeping close to our chest for now because when you are dealing with some group of criminals, they wait for you to speak and they go ahead to plan against it. So, we are doing everything possible to make sure that abscondment becomes a thing of the past that would be eradicated to a zero level if possible. The experience will be with the next pilgrimage that we are going to handle. So, we are already putting machinery on ground to ensure that everything goes on smoothly and to see how we can checkmate that to have a zero level of abscondment in the next pilgrimage.

NCPC FOREIGN ACCOUNT AND OFFERINGS FOR A CHAPEL IN ISRAEL

I did not want to go into that chapter because I am yet to get any information on that. As a matter of fact, I am just hearing it for the first time. So, if you gave offering there, maybe when I go to Israel, I may be able to ask where the building is located. We will deal with that.

Racism in Israel Against Nigerians

We are planning to have a meeting with the Israeli Ambassador. Not only that challenge but other challenges. We will combine all of them and discuss to resolve them. We need to have an internationally respected relationship between the two countries. Nigerians need to be respected abroad. We must be respected by other countries abroad. We definitely put that as our agenda.

Our Intervention In Crises Areas Of The Country

We are doing a lot with regards to ensuring an enduring peace in the country. We went to Kaduna and met with the Chief Executive and appealed to him to allow us to intervene and after meeting with him, we announced to the whole world that he accepted that I should go and intervene and I told him that the way out is to allow the people to sit down together and discuss so that they can raise the issues and discuss them. If the people raise the issues and discuss them, whatever decision reached, he (Governor Nasir El-Rufai) would implement. That is what we have done and we also started advocacy to show the people the need for the meeting and to also condole with them, commiserate with them. That we have done. In doing that the people have all agreed to have the meeting. That is the effort we have made. We just don’t talk at the meeting but we still be building up what is next because we have steps to carry and implement. We are looking for a permanent solution to the crises in Kaduna so that it can give us a pattern on how to handle other crises.

Why I Toured The Six Geopolitical Zones

My reason for touring the six geo-political zone is to sell the vision of the NCPC to them and then ask them for collaboration in achieving the programmes of the Commission, because one man cannot have a vision and impose it on the 36 States and Abuja. They must agree and cue into the vision. Secondly, to also discuss among all them, the vision and the agenda of building a good image for the Commission. We discussed with them the challenges and to also enable them tell us the challenges they have with us at the national office so that we can be able to take corrections. So, it was self-examining that we went out to do. We want to carry everybody along and not just NCPC in Abuja. The new arrangement in place now is NCPC and the Boards in the States to be able to move together and gladly, all the teams we have put together are having a headway. We are still going to have another meeting with them so that they can all see the cases they raised and how we can harmonise and deal with them together and work together.

Exchange Rate And COVID-19 Pandemic

We must first of all commend the Federal Government because they always supplement in terms of the exchange rate against the dollars. The Federal Government gave us a reasonable exchange rate which they have be giving and not that they have changed. They gave us the same thing they gave us last years. Again, as a new person who came I must make sacrifices because I cannot come in as a new person and still go with the old price. I must look for ways to help Nigerians so as to encourage more Nigerians to be able to travel at least. I would have given reasons because of the pandemic, let me increase the fare, let me increase the package, but no. The national office must make sacrifices and it is that sacrifices from both ends, that is from the Federal Government and from my office that enable us to slash down the package compared to last year. I think the various states and individual applauded it and so we are so happy.

NCPC Resort Centers

We have about two or three stages of the building of the center. The first stage has kicked off which is the laying of the foundation and it is already going on and the Federal Government has already released the first stage of money for it. We are hoping that we would continue as fast as possible because it is included in our budget and we are also talking to some individuals to see how we can finish it and only waiting on the Federal Government. We would definitely go to our brothers and sisters as well as well-meaning Nigerians that would be able to contribute towards the completion of the project and we will all earn our blessings from God.

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