By Rosemary Ogbonnaya
Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Christian Pilgrim Commission, NCPC, Rev. Yakubu Pam has held a meeting with the State Pilgrimage Leaders and Managers, comprising the State Chairmen and Secretaries of State Christian Pilgrims Welfare Boards and FCT recently in Abuja, to chart a new course for the 2021 general pilgrimage to Israel, Jordan and Rome.
Pam who recently visited the State of Israel met with Israeli Minister of Tourism as well as the Israeli Ambassador to Nigeria.
He informed the State Pilgrimage Stakeholders that the meeting was very fruitful as it centered on the forth coming 2021 pilgrimage exercise to Israel and the issue of COVID -19 protocols.
The NCPC boss said the Israeli Minister of Tourism was very eager to receive the Nigerian Pilgrims as soon as possible but with a caveat that the intending pilgrims from Nigeria would have to receive the first and second dozes of the COVID- 19 vaccine.
He added that Nigerian Pilgrims would also be subjected to five to six hours isolation until the result of the PCR test is released.
He explained that the Israeli authority had agreed to look into the possibility of procuring a 3 months group visa for Nigeria Pilgrims that would cover the pilgrimage period as against the 2 weeks visa policy.
Rev. Yakubu Pam also stressed that Nigerians visiting Israel for pilgrimage should be treated with respect and dignity like other countries.
The NCPC Chief Executive also informed the Pilgrimage Leaders that the Israeli authorities were favorably disposed to commence direct flight from Nigeria to Tel-Aviv during pilgrimage, promising that the activation of the Bilateral Air Service Agreement,BASA,between Nigeria and the State of Israel was discussed.
He hinted that Israel as a nation is taking the fight against the spread of COVID 19 seriously, hence it had shut its doors on 29th November, 2021 to prevent entry into Israel by foreigners, the ban according to him, “Is to prevent the spread of COVID 19 Omicron virus discovered in South Africa recently.
The NCPC boss further informed that the Commission would embark on the State of Readiness visit to Israel and Jordan from 10th -17th January, 2022 to ascertain the level of preparedness by the host country and also to inspect facilities at the Holy Sites and Hotels.
The Executive Secretary expressed his desire to commence full sensitization visit to State Governors in order to canvass for support and sponsorship of intending Pilgrims for 2021 pilgrimage exercise.
It was unanimously agreed by the NCPC and the State Pilgrimage Leaders that the 2021 General Pilgrimage to Israel, Jordan and Rome would commence in February, 2022.
Most of the pilgrimage Leaders who spoke during the meeting commended the Executive Secretary of the positive outcome of his meeting with the Israeli authorities and promised to go back and commence strong advocacy and sensitization on the need for intending pilgrims to be fully vaccinated with the COVID 19 Vaccine.
It is instructive to state that the meeting was held with strict compliance to the COVID 19 protocols and members who could not attend participated and contributed virtually.