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FG warns pilgrims against illegal trips

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By Abraham Adekunle

Lagos suspends airlifting as Israel-Hamas conflict heightens.

Amidst the ongoing bloody conflict between the State of Israel and Hamas militant group which has claimed hundreds of lives, the Federal Government has warned Nigerian pilgrims against making illegal and unauthorized trips while in the holy land. The Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Christian Pilgrims Commission (NCPC), Rev. Yakubu Pam, gave the warning as the Lagos State authorities suspended the planned airlifting in the state on October 9, 2023. Speaking at an orientation program for the intending pilgrims for the last batch of the Easter pilgrimage to Israel and Jordan, Pam said any traveller who engaged in any illegal act would be deported.

He warned that the commission would not hesitate to deport anyone who plans to abscond during pilgrimage. The orientation programs for the intending pilgrims were held both in Abuja and Lagos respectively, and supervised by the Mobilization Department of the commission. Pam assured intending consular and self-sponsored pilgrims that their safety remained a top priority. He further expressed optimism that the crisis in Israel would soon de-escalate and would afford the last batch of travellers the opportunity to visit Israel from Jordan.

NCPC allays the fear of devotees going to Israel.

Speaking on the security situation in Israel, the NCPC boss stated that the current fragile security situation in Israel is majorly being felt in Southern Israel, which is not within the pilgrimage circle. According to a statement signed by NCPC Head of Media and Public Relations, Celestine Toruka, the executive secretary disclosed that the pilgrims would commence their journey on Tuesday and arrive in Amman, Jordan on Wednesday, where they would spend four days, before proceeding to Israel, depending on the security situation by then.

He explained that Jordan is blessed with a lot of biblical holy sites which encapsulated the Old Testament, while Israel represented the New Testament thereby making the pilgrimage experience “a complete Bible” experience. He hinted that the fifth batch of worshippers currently undergoing pilgrimage in Israel had successfully crossed over to Amman in Jordan and would arrive in Nigeria on October 9. Reverend Pam cautioned the intending consular and self-sponsored intending individuals to desist from any negative tendencies that might affect the completion of their pilgrimage exercise.

LSCPWB suspends airlifting of travellers till further notice.

Against the backdrop of the crisis in Israel, the Lagos State Christian Pilgrims Welfare Board (LSCPWB) has suspended the airlifting of the second batch of intending travellers to the conflict zone. The airlifting was earlier scheduled for Tuesday. The Executive Secretary of the LSCPWB, Mrs. Florence Gbafe, said in a statement posted on the board’s Facebook page that further information would be communicated to the intending pilgrims as and when due. “To all on the second batch of pilgrimage to Israel, kindly note that the pilgrimage is now on hold due to the war situation in Israel. Further information will be communicated as and when due, please,” the statement read.

She added that the LSCPWB and the NCPC would announce a new date for the airlifting of the second batch of intending pilgrims in due course. The secretary further stated that the Lagos State Government and the Federal Government would continue to prioritize the safety of all on the journey to the holy land and would not expose Nigerians to any situation that will put their safety at risk. While thanking God for the safety of the first batch of travellers from Lagos State who had already concluded their pilgrimage activities on Sunday, Gbafe said that the pilgrims were expected to return to Nigeria later on Monday.

Israel threatens a ground, air and sea invasion of Palestine.

As the military confrontation between Israel and Hamas worsened, the Israeli Defense Minister, Yoav Gallant, ordered a “complete siege” on the Gaza Strip as the military pounded the Palestinian territory with air strikes. Gallant gave the order in a video message, referring to the enclave that is overcrowded with 2.3 million people. In his words, “We are putting a complete siege on Gaza. No electricity, no food, no water, no gas — it’s all closed.” Nearly 1,500 people have been killed in southern Israel since Hamas militants breached Israel’s borders on Saturday, shooting people in the communities and towns near Gaza before Israeli security forces began fighting back.

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