By Stanley Onyekwere
There is tremendous pressure on the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) to sponsor more pilgrims to the holy lands of Israel, Rome and Egypt, according to Director, FCT Christian Pilgrims Welfare Board(FCT-MPWB), Dabara Audu Vingo.
Vingo who made this disclosure in his speech to herald the end of year 2019 at the weekend in Abuja, said FCT-MPWB recorded zero-level abscondment within the period under review.
He however noted that though there was increased government sponsorship of pilgrims, as well as number of editions from one to four, within the same period, a lot still needed to be done, especially in the area of funding.
“Early and prompt release of funds by the administration (FCTA) for pilgrimage activities helped to ensure hitch-free conduct of Christian pilgrimage in the FCT.
“There has been increase in private sponsorship of Christian pilgrimage due to constant sensitization campaigns in the media, churches, companies, market places and others,” he stressed.
The director however regretted: “After completion of preparatory arrangements in Nigeria, some pilgrims are sometimes absent at the departure point due to circumstances beyond their control, as a result, the aircraft floes with empty seats as early notice is not ususally given by the pilgrims who could not turn up.”
He called on intending pilgrims to always disclose any illness that could require medical attention, adding that pilgrimage was a rigorous and stressful exercise, even as he advised that they should not carry too much luggage.
In order to eliminate challenges associated with the exercise, the director called on the Nigeria Christian Pilgrims Commission (NCPC) to provide more funding for the exercise and engage more than one aircraft of larger capacity for faster and easier airlifting of pilgrims.
He also called on the Commission to weigh pilgrims’ luggage before departure to the airport for boarding to checkmate excess luggage and closely monitor ground handlers of pilgrims for qualitative service delivery while in the holy lands.
According to him, the board conducts easter pilgrimage, Youth pilgrimage, family pilgrimage and regular pilgrimage in a year, in line with NCPC calender.