Due process would now be followed in the conduct of Christian pilgrimages to protect the country’s image.
The warning was given in Lagos by Rev. Yakubu Pam, Executive Secretary, Nigerian Christian Pilgrims Commission (NCPC).
He warned operators of the pilgrimages that it would no longer be “business as usual’’.
In a statement issued on Tuesday in Abuja by Mr Celestine Toruka, NCPC’s spokesman, Rev. Pam issued the warning at a meeting with the Christian Tourism Practitioners Association of Nigeria.
He warned that the period when people went on pilgrimage without going through the NCPC was over.
He added that tour operators who conducted pilgrimages without being fully registered and licenced by the Commission would be sanctioned.
Rev. Pam stressed that Christian pilgrimage operators should always ensure that the image of Nigeria was protected while conducting pilgrimages.
He added that the commission would no longer condone absconding or any other illegality by pilgrims or by pilgrimage operators.
He expressed delight that for the first time, none of the pilgrims who went to Jordan this year absconded during the pilgrimages.
Rev. Pam urged the pilgrimages operators to leverage on the giant strides the Commission had recorded in the area of zero absconding to ensure that no pilgrim absconds under their watch.
He stressed that operators licenced by the Commission must be people of high integrity and should be above board.
Pam decried the situation where some operators took advantage of the Commission’s successes in Jordan to move pilgrims to Jordan without recourse to the Commission.
The Executive Secretary affirmed that with his recent visit to Israel where he met with the Israeli Tourism Minister, pilgrimage to Israel would begin soon.
He said that the possibility of having direct flight from Nigeria to Israel was discussed with the Israeli authorities and was receiving positive attention.
He added that the COVID-19 pandemic had made the issue of travelling to Israel difficult since 2019, but that the issue had been addressed.
He noted that in spite of COVID-19, the Commission had been able to conduct its maiden pilgrimage to Jordan and it was a huge success.
Pam pledged the support of the Commission to private Christian pilgrimage operators who had been registered and licenced by the NCPC.
He urged the operators to intensify the spiritual capacity of their operation so that pilgrims could enjoy the spiritual essence of pilgrimages.
He said that the Commission would establish a desk for Christian pilgrimage operators at the NCPC to handle all matters concerning them so they could be treated with despatch.
The executive secretary admonished the operators to embark on strong advocacy and mobilisation of intending pilgrims for the 2021 pilgrimage.
He assured that he would meet with the Christian Association of Nigeria soon to secure its support for the 2021 pilgrimage.
Rev. Pam said that every intending pilgrim must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to be able to embark on the journey.
Earlier, President of the Christian Tourism Practitioners of Nigeria, (CTPAN), Rev Israel Kristilere, thanked the NCPC boss for meeting with the members of the association.
He thanked the NCPC boss for his promise to work closely with the association for better pilgrimages.
He called on the Executive Secretary to ensure that the Commission took stringent measures against those who refused to register with it, but were taking pilgrims to the Holy Land.
Rev. Kristilere demanded that the Executive Secretary should meet with the association biannually to enable the association to engage with developing trends on pilgrimages. (NAN)