President Goodluck Jonathan on Monday expressed concern over the report that northern state governments did not sponsor Christian pilgrims during the 2014 pilgrimage to Israel.
He raised the concern when the leader of the Federal Government’s delegation to the pilgrimage, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, led other members to present their report at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Oritsejafor, who is the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, had earlier told the President that all Christian pilgrims from all the states in the North were sponsored by individuals or were self-sponsored.
He said with the total of 12,890 pilgrims that performed the exercise, the Nigeria Christian Pilgrims Commission recorded about 45 per cent increase in self-sponsorship.
The President, however, said economic pressure might have forced the affected state governments to withdraw from sponsoring pilgrims.
He, however, promised to encourage the affected state governments on the need to change their stand.
He said, “The only thing I noticed is that various state governments are trying to withdraw from sponsorship of pilgrimage; maybe because of the economic pressure on them. But we will encourage them to do so.
“Luckily, private institutions have shown interest and I believe that religious bodies, individuals and private institutions will gradually begin to key into the pilgrimage operations.
“So, if sub-national governments relax a little, the gap will be filled up.”
He expressed delight that the exercise was hitch-free despite the huge number of people involved.
He promised that his administration would study the report and implement the various recommendations made.
The President thereafter dissolved the 10-man delegation, with a promise to constitute that of 2015 very soon.
As part of the delegation’s report, Oritsejafor called for the adequate funding of Nigerian embassies in Rome, Greece and Tel Aviv to assist in the handling of pilgrims.
He also called on various governments, both at the state and local levels, to sponsor Christians for pilgrimage especially as the Commission was using the pilgrimage as a tool for moral and spiritual transformation.