The deputy governor of Anambra State, Nkem Okeke, said on Tuesday that the state government currently lacked the financial resources to sponsor intending pilgrims from the state to the Jerusalem
Addressing the state’s intending pilgrims in Awka, Mr. Okeke said government’s decision was informed by the security situation in the country.
“We are truly sorry for not performing our usual sponsorship of intending pilgrims from our state; it is due to economic crunch; we appeal to people who can sponsor themselves to do so.
“They can even sponsor those in their areas who have the willingness to visit the holy land but do not have the fund,” he said.
He, however, said that the state government might, at some point, assist when the economy improved, adding that lots of developmental projects needed urgent attention.
According to him, the projects will further create jobs for the teeming unemployed youths and improve the state’s economy.
Earlier in his speech, a federal commissioner at the Nigerian Christian Pilgrims Commission, NCPC, representing South-East zone, Zion Ibenenye, advised the intending pilgrims not to be deterred by the state government’s decision.
“The inability of the state to sponsor intending pilgrims should not deter those who sincerely wish to visit the holy land.
“The state government has, for years, sponsored pilgrims; I urge the people to reason with the government at this point,” Mr. Ibenenye, a reverend, said.
He further advised them to seek assistance from wealthy people in their various communities.
Reacting to the development, one of the intending pilgrims, Obioma Chinedu, told the News Agency of Nigeria that the state government could have arranged its priorities in such a way as to accommodate the spiritual exercise.
Ms. Chinedu said rather than outright suspension of sponsorship, the government could have reduced the number, stressing that the exercise helps in building both moral and social character of people.
Also speaking, Josia Ezeemo, said that the state government should have announced its decision before the sale of forms.
The development has resulted in a drastic reduction of the number of intending pilgrims participating in the 2015 exercise.
The 200 people who had purchased forms hoping on government’s sponsorship, had been informed that it would no longer be possible.
As a result, only five self-sponsored individuals have so far paid the required amount of N482, 840 for the 11-day trip.
No fewer than 850 pilgrims attended the holy pilgrimage from Anambra in 2014.
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