Abakaliki - The Nigerian Christian Pilgrims Commission (NCPC) on Friday said it allotted 400 seats to Ebonyi in the forthcoming 2013 Christian pilgrimage to Israel and Rome.
The NCPC Chairman, John-Kennedy Opara, made this known when he led members of the commission on a courtesy visit to Gov. Martin Elechi, in Abakaliki.
Opara urged the governor to compel wealthy politicians and government officials in the state to assist in sponsoring this year’s pilgrimage.
"This will encourage more people to embark on the pilgrimage, to get the needed spiritual rebirth that will bring salvation to the country,” he said.
According to him, President Goodluck Jonathan has personally invited Elechi to accompany him to the pilgrimage scheduled to commence from October.
"This is the first time in the history of the country that a serving president will lead pilgrims and it shows his commitment to the spiritual rejuvenation of the nation.
"He also demonstrated this commitment by approving the slashing of the exchange rate for the exercise on one dollar to N146 to reduce cost and ensure a successful exercise.
"This translates to N358 000 and N421 000 in cost per pilgrim for the trips for Israel and Rome, respectively, representing a 12 and 21 per cent reduction,’’ he said.
He said the commission now organises three sets of pilgrimage exercise in a year to avail Christians opportunities.
"The first holds during the Easter period, while the second is the family pilgrimage that allows for good spiritual foundation for the family and then, the main pilgrimage,” Opara said.
In his response, Elechi thanked the commission for the visit, and said he would honour the invitation of the president.
He said that government had been assisting Christians and Muslims in their respective pilgrimages within its lean resources.
"Since coming into office in 2007, we missed sponsoring the pilgrimages only in 2010 due to the effects of the global economic meltdown,” he said.
He described Jonathan as the best thing to happen to the country, saying, he had been most transparent and accountable.
``Those that are causing problems for him are doing so out of jealousy, as he had exceeded all expectations having been written off by some people in the beginning,” Elechi said.