The Nigeria Christian Pilgrim Commission (NCPC) is the only apex faith based Christian Agency of government that is saddled with the responsibility of regulating Christian Pilgrimage in Nigeria. Its sole mandate is to organize and coordinate the movement of Nigerian pilgrims from Nigeria to Israel and other holy sites around the world.
The Commission was established by an act of the National Assembly in 2007 and commenced full operation in 2008. Prior to its enabling establishment ct, pilgrimage activities were done as an adhoc arrangement and domiciled in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs known as Department of Pilgrims Affairs which covered both Christian and Muslim’s pilgrimage.
Since inception in 2008, the Commission has advanced in leaps and bounds due to Committed and purposeful leadership. In 2010, the Commission was able to move from a rented apartment to a befitting corporate headquarters of its own.
Shortly after that, the Commission established six zonal offices in six Geo-political zones across the country.
On assumption of office in May 2016, the Executive Secretary, Rev. Tor Uja and his management team considered it needful to set up eight Metropolitan Offices in some of the major commercial cities in Nigeria – Awka, Onitsha, Lagos, Port- Harcourt, Asaba, Sokoto, Kano and Abuja.
Only recently the new board of the Commission was inaugurated on 27th February, 2018 by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha. The Board Chairman, Pastor Yomi Kasali, a renowned Preacher has other quality men and women that constitute members of the Board.
The new Board had their inaugural meeting on 27th February, shortly after their inauguration and subsequently had their maiden Board meeting from 5th -6th, March.
The Board also created an opportunity to meet and interact with the staff of the Commission. With this development, the board is excited and willing to join forces with the management to create an enabling environment for Christian Pilgrimage to thrive.
Many other innovations have been brought to bear in the Commission by the present leadership of the NCPC. There is indeed no doubt that the Commission has recorded modest achievements since inception.
The Nigeria Christian Pilgrim Commission (NCPC) is rated most active and strongest pilgrim Commission in Africa, and has been attracting most countries to it for learning.
Little wonder therefore, that a seven Man high powered Ghanaian delegation led by the Hon. Minister of Religious and Chieftaincy Affairs, Hon. Samuel Kofi Dzamesi embarked on a three day fact finding mission to NCPC from 26th to 28thFebruary, 2018 to understudy the Commission’s pilgrimage strategy.
Mr Dzamesi said the three-day working visit was to understudy the NCPC’s pilgrimage strategy over the years and how they have been able to overcome certain challenges faced to achieve success.
According to him,” Last year we decided to embark on general pilgrimage to Israel and we have been able to do the first pilot program. But we encountered 114 challenges during the pilgrimage.
“Nigeria started pilgrimage sometime back, we have been very interested in the way the country has gone about the administration of pilgrimage to the Holy Land. We decided from our Ministry and informed our President, Nana Akufo-Addo who is very much interested in pilgrimage.
“Ghana and Nigeria have the same situation, and if our brother has taken the lead, to be able to solve certain problems, we don’t have to start by fixing those problems, but to understudy and learn from their challenges,” he said.
The Executive Secretary of NCPC, Rev Tor Uja also agreed to put Ghana through in order to overcome its challenges.
He noted that the partnership would be continuous, adding that the Commission would also visit Ghana to build the capacity of officials on pilgrimage.
Uja disclosed that Nigeria was so far the only country in Africa and the world that runs an organized, consistent and successful Christian pilgrimage.
He said: “They want to see how things work so that they can emulate us and put them into practice in Ghana. Our first focus is pilgrimage; we have taken them through the different roots to show them the things that we do and how they are done to ensure hitch free pilgrimage.
“They have requested us to maintain partnership with them so that over the years they will be coming and we will also be going to teach, train, guide and help them”.
The NCPC boss reaffirmed that Nigeria is the only country in the world that is running organized, consistent and successful Christian pilgrimage and maybe if there is a next, it will be Ghana, describing Nigerians as “gifted and successful people in all their endeavors”.
On February 26, 2018 the delegation was led by the Executive Secretary, NCPC, to visit the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Gida Mustapha.
Dzamesi during the visit informed the SGF of their motive for the visit to Nigeria saying, “We are far behind in pilgrimage system.
We are yet to set up board that will stand on its own. Looking at African continent, we saw that Nigeria started long time ago, we decided to embark on the three-day working visit to enable us model our system based on Nigeria system”, he said.
The Secretary to the Federal Government (SGF) in his remarks expressed its readiness and support to enable its West Africa neighbor, Ghana to overcome pilgrimage challenges. The SGF obliged to a request by the Ghanaian authority to understudy its pilgrimage system in furtherance of its existing relationship.
He averred that Ghana in the past has impacted greatly in the development of Nigeria in terms of education, adding that both countries are brothers with a lot of similarity.
Mr. Boss Mustapha reassured the delegation with these words: “You are in the right place, I am glad you came to Nigeria to understudy our pilgrimage system, when we started ours, it was under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; we did not relegate it but put a lot of effort, I believe a lot are here for you to learn, we are ready to support you in order to overcome the challenges faced during your first general pilgrimage exercise.
“I believe Nigeria’s peculiarity will suit your country, we are together as brothers and sisters, together in West Africa, in Africa Union (AU) and others but the only thing we have rivalry is during soccer”, he noted.
The delegation after informing Rev. Uja of their intention to build a National Cathedral also extended their visit to the National Christian Centro, formerly known as the Ecumenical Cent re in order to have the knowledge of how a National Cathedral should be.
Dzamesi during the visit to the National Christian Center, Abuja stated that the delegation was impressed with religious development seen so far, adding that they will continue to visit from time to time to see how the place is being maintained.
He lauded the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) for being able to maintain the place despite all challenges.
In his words, “We are highly impressed; we never knew that Nigeria has a National Cathedral like this. Sometimes last year, our President Nana Akufo-Addo decided we must have a national cathedral, we only thought of going to Cote d’ Ivoire and nobody mentioned Nigeria.
“Ghana is a little bit behind in such project, I recommend this Cathedral to our country and I pray we will be able to build such. We see this as a challenge and if our brother has been able to do something like this and they are able to assist us to do it, it becomes a blessing to both nations”, he said.
The delegation before their departure disclosed that they have learnt more than they expected from Nigeria. Mr. Dzamesi while commending the Commission said that they have been able to solve more than thirty challenges out of the 114 they encountered in their maiden Pilgrimage to Israel.
He stated that the NCPC has made history in Africa, adding that Nigeria is the only country in Africa that has been able to perfect pilgrimage by setting up pilgrims Commissions at both national and state levels.
“We have understudied you and we have learnt so many things, when we get back to Ghana, we will use your model as our basic model to start up pilgrimage for our country.
We will not be able to do it on our own, from time to time; we will invite you over to put us through when we encounter challenges. Africa needs to see within the continent in order to strengthen unity and success”.
The Executive Secretary, Rev Uja lauded the delegation for finding NCPC worthy to be understudied and emulated calling on African leaders to give greater attention to the younger generation, invest, and inculcate in them the understanding of what Africa stands for.
He observed that Nigeria has a specific pilgrimage for youth which comes up in July. The objectives he said was not just to visit Holy Sites for prayers but to improve skills acquisition, exposure to agriculture in Israel with the desire to return, be more productive and develop something better for Africa.
Aside Ghana, other African countries have been partnering Nigeria on pilgrimage. For instance, the Cote d’Ivoire Embassy in Nigeria has been interfacing with the Commission on how to develop Christian pilgrimage in the French speaking neighboring country.
The Cote d’Ivoire Ambassador to Nigeria Madame Toure Nee Kone Maman has often paid a courtesy visit to the Commission. The Commission also sent a delegation to the country to explore some of their pilgrimage sites.
Indeed, in the nearest future, more African countries and the world will come to Nigeria to learn and understudy our pilgrimage process and if possible make Nigeria a Pilgrimage destination in Africa as the country has what it takes to achieve this feat.
There are lots of take away from the visit of the Ghanaian delegation as it has placed a burden on the Commission to work harder and continue to show a shining example for other countries to emulate.
The experience will help the Commission to seriously address some of its challenges, especially the issues of abscondment which has become a canker-worm undermining the efforts of the Commission.
Good enough the recent strategic review meeting between NCPC and the Pilgrimage Leaders and Managers in Abuja took a decisive stand on abscondment and if the decisions reached are implemented, the menace will be drastically reduced.
The visit also exposed the Commission to the global world not only Africa as it has made the Commission to be more prepared to receiving more of such delegations from other countries.
This therefore presupposes that there should be need for training and retraining of the NCPC Staff to put them in a better stead for the challenges ahead.
Furthermore, the planning and organization of that visit by the NCPC should be commended, especially in view of the fact that it was a litmus test for the Commission being the first time ever to host such a high powered fact finding delegation.
At the end of the three days water tight working visit, the Ghanaian delegation applauded the Commission for excellent arrangement put in place.
The Commission should not rest on its oars but should continue to improve and advance the cause of Christian pilgrimage even beyond Nigeria.
After all, Christian pilgrimage is all about Christ and service to our father land as encapsulated in the Commission’s creed: ‘‘Proclaiming Christ, Serving Nigeria”.