Rivers State Governor, Dr. Peter Odili and the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Saidu Balarabe Samaila have strongly disagreed over the involvement of the Federal Government in the sponsorship of the annual Pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
While Odili argued that the Federal Government has no excuse to retire or withdraw from the sponsorship, considering the benefits of the programme to the country, the Minister said the Federal Government was fed up with the rate the pilgrims absconded during the pilgrimage.
Both parties canvassed their views at a Pre-Pilgrimage retreat for Christian Pilgrims held in Rivers State, Port Harcourt.
While advancing reason for the Federal Government action the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs emphasised that the greatest setback to the performance of the yearly pilgrimage to the Holy Land and Rome had been the spates of abscondment by young pilgrims. Though Samaila admitted that the situation is being brought under control, as less than one per cent of such cases was recorded last year, he insisted that the Federal Government would no long sponsor people on pilgrimages in the country.
However, the Minister disclosed that the Federal Government would only assist in the area of provision of operational funds as well as consular and medical support for both Muslim and Christian Pilgrims.