Confab: No More Government-Sponsored Pilgrimages

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Lemu addressing the conference

By Olusegun Emmanuel, Abuja.

The National Conference Tuesday resolved that in order to distance government from involvement in religious matters, henceforth, no government, at any level, should use public funds to sponsor any religious programme, especially pilgrimages for any category of citizens, including government functionaries.

It was also agreed that apex religious bodies in the country be allowed to handle all matters relating to pilgrimage through the Pilgrims Commissions duly managed by them under a law to be passed by the National Assembly to regulate their functions and protect pilgrims.

It however agreed that government, in performance of its oversight responsibility to Nigerians, shall provide normal consular services for the pilgrims through the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the established Nigerian foreign missions in the relevant destinations.

In arriving at these decisions, the Conference relied on the recommendations of the Committee on Religion which had Bishop Felix Ajakaiye and Alhaji Nurudeen Lemu as co-chairmen.

The recommendations were well received by delegates who, twice, during the presentation of the report by Lemu and against the conference rules of procedure, rose to applaud the committee for its sound analysis, thorough handling and simplification of knotty issues and for coming up with what delegates described as daring recommendations.

Conference Deputy Chairman, Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, said the constitution of the Committee on Religion was the most difficult assignment in terms of membership during the inauguration of all the committees.

He said this was due to the sensitive nature of the assignment and the fact that “people can change their political views, but they may not change their religious views,” adding that the committee had handled the assignment with diligence and compassion.