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NCPC Fumes Over Escapee Pilgrims, Imposes New Rules

The Nigerian Christian Pilgrim Commission (NCPC) has frowned upon the tactics employed by some pilgrims to abscond once they get to the holy land. It…

The Nigerian Christian Pilgrim Commission (NCPC) has frowned upon the tactics employed by some pilgrims to abscond once they get to the holy land. It therefore vows to adopt whistle-blowing to identify staff of the commission who aid such pilgrims.

In a communiqué at the end of a four-day retreat in Jos and made available to journalists in Abuja on Saturday, the NCPC stressed that all intending pilgrims should be thoroughly screened to address the scourge and enable them to beat visa application deadlines.

It said the whistle-blowing mechanism would bring about an effective screening system at different levels of operations, as it noted that all screening exercises would henceforth be led by senior and experienced officers to identify those who might want to abscond.

It directed that forms being used by State Christian Pilgrim Welfare Boards (SCPWBs) should be harmonised across the states and approved by the commission before they would be put to use.

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It added, “Screening officers should not decide based on statement of accounts, as found on many occasions.

“That all SCPWBs should be made to realise that pilgrims who have been airlifted by the commission to various Holy Sites should be seen as Nigerian pilgrims and not the limited view of seeing such pilgrims as belonging to a particular state.”

The communiqué accordingly asked the boards in the various states to work closely with the commission’s staff in order to ensure a smooth exercise. It further said the authority of Federal Government officials (including NCPC staff) should be communicated by the Executive Secretary to all states during the conference of states meeting.

The communiqué added, “Any secretary of SCPWBs who desires to guarantee an intending pilgrim should not be allowed to guarantee more than two pilgrims. Pilgrims to be so guaranteed; and where the SCPWBs desires to provide guarantee for more than two, then he should be made to submit a written undertaking to the Executive Secretary of NCPC to that effect.

“And the ES (Executive Secretary) of NCPC will examine such and reach a decision as appropriate in the circumstances. That staff on screening exercise to Zonal Offices should leverage the knowledge of the staff of such Zonal Offices of the local environment to guide them.

“That two staff or at least one staff who carried out the screening of any pilgrim should be made to accompany such pilgrims whenever they are travelling; this is to apply any knowledge gained during the screening for monitoring of those pilgrims. In this respect, the name of any suspected pilgrim should be compiled and given to staff traveling with them to nip any attempt to escape on the part of the pilgrims.”

The communiqué noted further that the ratio of staff in any bus should increase in order to curtail attempts of escaping, adding that staff on screening assignments should be thoroughly tutored on the art of report writing so they could capture all the details of the screening exercise to minimise escape by pilgrims.

It added, “Accordingly, staff who delay in submitting reports after a screening will be thoroughly disciplined in line with extant rules and regulations. Intelligence gathering on pilgrims with two passports should be intensified.

”Pilgrims’ new passports should be double-checked intensely to ensure that they do not submit the expired passport while still using the valid passport to aid their escape. In this respect, any pilgrim submitting an expired passport should be automatically seen as a potential escapee.

“That in respect of the above, issuance of visa on passport to staff of the commission is deemed to enhance their relevance and ease of movement of such staff. That the commission will embark on continuous re-evaluation of screening reports and the list of names sent for Visa procurement.”

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