The Honourable Commissioner for Home Affairs, Prince Anofiu Olanrewaju Elegushi, has assured intending Christian pilgrims to the holy lands of Israel and Rome that the Year 2020 pilgrimage exercise will proceed as soon as the curve of the Coronavirus pandemic is flattened and the borders are reopened.
The Commissioner, who gave the assurance during a stakeholders’ forum/sensitisation of intending pilgrims to Jerusalem on Thursday at the Adeyemi-Bero Auditorium, Alausa, Ikeja, noted that the pandemic has greatly affected the 2020 pilgrimage exercise, especially the April/May Easter pilgrimage which had to be cancelled due to the temporary closure of the borders of Israel and Rome.
He, however, allayed the fears of intending pilgrims that the 2020 November/December general pilgrimage exercise will not hold, stating that the Ministry has been in constant touch with the Ministry of Interior in the holy lands with an assurance that the borders will be open as soon as the pandemic flattens.
“The reason for convening this stakeholders meeting is to allay the fears of pilgrims that couldn’t go for the April/May Easter pilgrimage and assure them that as soon as the borders are opened, modalities will be put in place to airlift them. We want to also hear from them, answer their questions and listen to their recommendations”, Elegushi stated.
He assured those that have paid for the pilgrimage not to worry as their funds are safe and secure with the government, noting that as a responsible government, pilgrims would not be denied their legitimate right to seek a refund.
The Commissioner also seized the opportunity of the forum to seek the cooperation and understanding of religious leaders on the State Government’s directive that worship centres should remain closed, adding that the order is for the greater good of the general public.
While maintaining that the Lagos State Government would not hesitate to open up worship centres as soon as it is appropriate and safe to do so, Elegushi debunked the insinuation in some quarters that Coronavirus is not real, stating that people should discard the erroneous belief and adhere to stipulated safety measures put in place by the Government so that the virus can be contained.
In her address, the Permanent Secretary, Mrs. Adebunmi Elizabeth Adekanye stated that the stakeholder’s forum became imperative in order to reassure intending pilgrims that the State Government, in conjunction with the Nigerian Christian Pilgrims Commission (NCPC), is putting everything in place to airlift pilgrims as soon as the borders are opened.
Adekanye emphasised the need to observe all stipulated protocols such as regular hand washing with water and soap, wearing of face masks, avoiding large gatherings, maintaining physical distancing and avoiding handshakes, among others.
The Special Adviser to the Lagos State Governor on religious matters (Christian), Reverend Olubukola Adeleke, in his admonition, charged Christians to intensify their prayers and seek the face of God in order to put an end to the ravaging virus, stressing that now is the time to move closer to God and cooperate with the government by keeping to its directives.
The Lagos State Christian Pilgrims Welfare Board Secretary, Mrs. Florence Yetunde Gbafe, informed the intending pilgrims that the board will ensure that they have a hitch-free pilgrimage exercise as soon as the borders are open for airlifting, noting that the welfare of pilgrims is of utmost importance to the board.
Participants at the forum appreciated the Lagos State Government for the transparency and the all-inclusiveness policy of carrying them along as events unfold.