Nigeria and Israel will sign Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASA) before the end of 2013, the Executive Secretary of the Nigeria Christian Pilgrims Commission (NCPC), John-Kennedy Opara, has said.
The last batch of Christian pilgrims arrived from Israel
Mr. Opara said this when he accompanied the Minister of Police Affairs, Caleb Olubolade, and the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Viola Onwuliri, to welcome the last batch of pilgrims from Israel for the end of the 2013 Easter pilgrimage.
He said that President Goodluck Jonathan, who had indicated his interest to participate in the 2013 exercise, would facilitate the signing of the agreement when he visits Israel later in the year.
The commission boss said that the president had directed foreign affairs officials to make the necessary arrangements ahead of his visit, to enable him to hold talks with Israel’s highest authorities over the matter.
He expressed confidence that the agreement would eventually be signed during the president’s visit to the holy land before the end of the year.
The issue of Bilateral Air Service Agreement between Nigeria and the State of Israel had been on for a while. Officials from both countries had held talks on the matter in the past but an agreement was yet to be signed.
The signing of BASA would reduce the cost of Christian pilgrimage and encourage private sponsorship of pilgrimage to the holy land.
On the 2013 Easter pilgrimage, the executive secretary said that it was a huge success as there was no case of anyone absconding or death was recorded during the exercise.
He said that all the 3,304 pilgrims from 18 states who participated in the exercise had returned to the country.
Mr. Opara said that the commission would build on the success of the 2013 exercise to make subsequent exercises better and bigger.
In his remark, Mr. Olubolade urged the pilgrims to justify their visit to the holy land by leading the campaign for moral rejuvenation in their respective areas.
He said that the Federal Government would continue to encourage such exercises especially when it had a positive impact on the present agenda of the transformation of the economy and society.
Mrs. Onwuliri urged the pilgrims to make the impact of their experiences in Israel felt in their offices, homes and society at large.
She said that it was the only way to justify their visit to the holy land and their spiritual encounter with the foundation of the Christian faith.
She urged them to be worthy examples of the transformation agenda founded on peace, love and unity.
She said that their good behaviour would be a boost to the transformation agenda of the Goodluck Jonathan Administration.