The executive secretary, Nigerian Christian Pilgrim Commission (NCPC), Rev. Yakubu Pam, has held a strategic meeting with top officials of the Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos, and other relevant stakeholders at the airport preparatory to the commencement of the 2021 main pilgrimage exercise.
Rev. Pam, according to a press statement issued by the Commission’s head of media and public relations, Celestine Toruka, and his delegation were “warmly received by the regional manager of the airport, Mrs. Victoria Shin Aba.
He said his visit was borne out of the fact that the Commission would soon commence the airlift operations for intending pilgrims early next month.
“By the way you warmly received us, it is a sign that you will cooperate with us for hitch-free airlift operations this year. NCPC is not new to the Lagos international airport as the Commission has had a long history of relationship with the airport over the years,” he was quoted as saying.
He solicited the assistance and cooperation of the regional manager in the area of securing permanent passes for the NCPC Lagos zonal staff in order to facilitate access to some sensitive points at the airport during pilgrimage operations.
Responding, Mrs. Shin Aba re-affirmed the cordial relationship between the two organisations, especially in the area of airlift operations and gave the assurance that the airport was “ever ready to support and cooperate with the NCPC in discharging its mandate.”
On the Covid-19 protocols at the airport, she said the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) had cancelled the spraying of luggage at the airport and had also abolished spacing of seats while on board “but the use of face marks is still in force.”
In a related development, the NCPC has planned to partner with the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) in its fight to flush out illegal pilgrimage operators in Lagos and the entire country.
Consequently, Rev. Pam paid a courtesy visit to the NIS comptroller at the MMIA, Lagos, Mrs. Kemi Nandap,to seek the Service’s collaboration in flushing out charlatans in the affairs of pilgrimage operations in the country.
Rev. Pam said the Commission “seriously frowns on what is happening in the Lagos axis where unlicensed pilgrimage operators take people to the Holy Land without recourse to the Commission.”
He clarified that the “NCPC 2007 Establishment Act of Parliament empowers it to license, renew and regulate all Christian pilgrimage activities in Nigeria.”
“The activities of the unregistered operators in the pilgrimage sub-sector are illegal and they amount to human trafficking,” he said, and expressed displeasure at the rate people used the platform of “these illegal bodies who are not registered with the Commission to abscond from the country under the guise of pilgrimage.”
Responding, Mrs. Nandap promised to collaborate with the Commission by beaming the searchlight on the activities of illegal pilgrimage operators in Lagos “so that they can no longer hide under pilgrimage to facilitate the escape of persons out of the country.”
She advised the Commission to avail the Service of the list of all registered and licensed pilgrimage operators with NCPC and also the “screened list of all intending pilgrims with the pilgrimage operators so that the Immigration officers would be able to carry out due diligence on them frequently.”