By Innocent Odoh The Executive Secretary of the Nigeria Christian Pilgrim Commission, NCPC, Rev. Uja Tor Uja has canvassed for the activation of the Bilateral Air Service Agreement with the State of Israel so that pilgrims could fly directly to Israel.
A statement issued on Thursday by the head of the media unit of the commission, Celestine Oguguo, made available to our correspondent noted that the NCPC boss disclosed this during a courtesy visit to the Nigerian Ambassador to Israel, His Excellency Mr Enoch Duchi in TEL AVIV.
In the words of the NCPC boss, ” I will be glad to see how BASA can be activated so that pilgrims can fly directly to Israel” He further reiterated that it would help the entire pilgrimage process better to have a direct flight to Israel, the statement said.
He explained that he would want to have local content in the airlift of pilgrims hence his desire to encourage the participation of indigenous airline in the Commission’s airlift operations. He admitted that there were some challenges and conditions needed to get BASA activated thus he solicited the support of the Ambassador in this regard.
The Executive Secretary thanked the Ambassador for making available a space for the Commission’s Medical Clinic which is domiciled within the Embassy. He further requested him to also advise the Commission on how best to make use of the facilities at the clinic, the statement added.
Rev. Uja further solicited the support of the Ambassador on how to reduce the menace of absconders during pilgrimage.He affirmed that the Israeli government has a role to play in reducing the numbers of absconders.
He equally informed the Ambassador of the Commission,s plan to organise a public procurement workshop for service providers in Israel next year to acquaint them with certain basic Nigerian procurement laws so that they can do business with ease with the Commission.
He further sought the cooperation of the Ambassador in the area of visa procurement and the issue of deportation of pilgrims even with their valid visas.
He intimated him that he was in his office to congratulate him on his appointment as the substantive Nigerian Ambassador to Israel and to brief him on the pilgrimage programmes and processes.
He assured the Ambassador that he would lean on him and work cooperatively with him and his staff to advance the cause of pilgrimage.
Responding, Ambassador Duchi promised to support NCPC in all ramifications.He assured him that the issue of deportation of Nigerian pilgrims is unacceptable. He promised to intervene and get it resolved with the Israeli authorities just as he would want to see a serious reduction in the number of absconders. He urged the NCPC boss to ensure that intending pilgrims are subjected to thorough screening.
The Ambassador assured the NCPC boss of his full support for the Commission. his words,”let us know what your plans are”. He added, ” if you involve us nobody would interfere with your programmes but we will only advise, let us see ourselves as partners in progress serving the same interest”.
The Executive Secretary was accompanied on the courtesy visit by Dr Mrs Ada Olabode, a member of the Federal Medical Committee as well as Mr Sonnie Aruya, the Director, General Service Office, Office of the Secretary To the Government of the Federation.