The Executive Secretary of Nigerian Christian Pilgrims Commission (NCPC), Tor Uja, said the Easter pilgrimage slated for April was delayed due to operational reasons.
Mr Uja disclosed this in on Monday in an interview with News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja.
“The first reasons was because the general pilgrimage for 2018 only ended in the middle of February just before the general elections and the commission will not want Nigerians to be outside the country during the general elections.
“The second reasons is that most of the stakeholders were busy with the elections and need time to make provision for the pilgrims.
“We have to screen them, get their visas, sort them out and make adequate preparations for them. Also the commission has to go round the states which have not been done.
“Thirdly and very serious, Israelis have their own holiday in the month of April and it starts from April 15 till the end of the month.
“As a nation we normally go in thousands and the hotels we normally used would have been occupied by the Israelis who came from far to observe the holidays.
“So the commission felt the Easter pilgrimage for April, 2019 should come after these holidays. By May, all arrangements will be concluded and from June 2 we will commence the first flight to Israel,” he said.
Mr Uja explained that the Commission was trying its best to make the cost of Pilgrimage affordable.
“NCPC is not making profit out of Pilgrimage. 740,000 is the cost of a pilgrim to Jerusalem, (Israel) and back. It covers to and fro airfare, visa processing, all forms of insurance, tour of Holy Sites, hotels accommodation and feeding.
“This cost is per pilgrim because we are providing very good hotels accommodations; good food and excellent plans and they would be moved around Israel by new air-conditioned buses.
“In the last two years NCPC had subsides this cost but we are not in such position to do so anymore,” he said.
Mr Uja called for the involvement of youths in this year’s Easter pilgrimage in order to open their eyes to what other youths were doing in Israel and emulate same when they come back.
“We are looking for sponsors that will help us take youths to Israel in batches so that they can come back to the nation to be a blessing; we have not yet succeeded but we will.
“The commission intends to strengthen these two areas; youths and women pilgrimage so that they can rescue Nigeria and also reposition the nation for the future.
“Youth cannot pay their pilgrimage fees. Women hardly can unless their husbands are generous people.
“We did the first women pilgrimage only about a 100 women went and it was not easy because we had to sponsors a lot of them. Just a few of them their husbands sponsored but majority struggled to pay part and the commission had to help them complete their money,” he said.