Mr. Samuel Jatau Haruna is the Executive Secretary of Christian Pilgrims Welfare Board in Bauchi State. In this interview with NASIR SHAUIBU, he shares his experience on a recent visit to Jordan and Jerusalem to ascertain readiness for this year’s pilgrimage as well as some challenges for intended Christian pilgrims, among others
What does the State of Readiness (SOR) mean?
State of Readiness is a journey or visitation to the Jerusalem for planning and preparations ahead of the time for pilgrimage worship, and this is normally done by the Executive Members of the Board.
It is done with a view to ensuring that every arrangement like issues of choosing and selection of accommodation, booking of flight tickets and other important needs of the intended pilgrims are addressed for effective and smooth takeoff to and fro.
What are the challenges that the intended Christian Pilgrims from Bauchi are likely to face in this year’s exercise?
Yes, this year’s pilgrimage has come with a lot of new series of changes on the activities, regarding the process of registration, booking of flight tickets and hotel accommodations at the holy land Jerusalem.
However, the Board has come to know all these Changes during its official visit to the Holy Land for the State of Readiness, and discovered that most of the processes now require individual computer skills, unlike the previous years of the exercise.
First and fore most, the intended pilgrims must know how to operate even a small computer which is either a hand set, palm top, or mini laptop etc, because everything there is now done through the use of the internet services. This way they will be able to fill or answer the questions required as well as other activities during the period of the pilgrimage exercise.
What do you think are the major reasons for the unexpected changes being introduced by the authorities at the Holy Land?
Well, I think all these changes were as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic that is ravaging the entire world; hence the authorities deemed it fit to impose such a major conditions with a view to tackling the separateness of the diseases across the pilgrims during the exercise.
As you know, last year the exercise was suspended all over the world because of the COVID- 19 pandemic, and probably that could be the main reason why they want to adopt the strategy this year, in order to reduce the spread of the virus.
On the other hand, it could be as a result of the present security challenges being experienced in the entire world to checkmate and have a data on every intended pilgrim in respective of where they you come from in order to have hitch free exercise.
What would you say is the position of the intending Pilgrims on COVID-19 vaccination at the Holy Land?
It’s very important and compulsory for every intending pilgrim to be vaccinated in Nigeria before departure to the Holy Land. Apart from the vaccination that intending pilgrims must take in Nigeria, the must also be quarantined upon landing at the airport, for some minutes in the flight.
The pilgrims must also receive another vaccination before coming out from the flight to the reception. For example, when we left Nigeria, we landed at Egypt airport, where we were all quarantined; and we received the first vaccination, and after taking off to Jordan, we were still quarantined.
On getting to our destination at Jerusalem we still received another round of vaccination. Having spent two weeks before coming back to Nigeria we still got another vaccination. And this is my vaccination card and documents as evidence from all the airports visited.
Apart from the COVID-19 what other challenges are intending pilgrims likely to face?
Other challenges are the booking of flight and accommodation process. The new policy introduced by the authorities at the Holy Land brought out a lot of changes and difficulties such as compulsory acquisition of knowledge of computer operation and ability to fill or answer questions on the application portals. The skill acquisition is targeted at reducing time wasting during accredita
tion and other documentation processes.
How much does it cost to travel to Jerusalem during this year’s pilgrimage?
The amount an intending pilgrim would need for this year pilgrimage to Jordan is N960, 000, while another N1, 40,000 is needed to take each pilgrim to Jerusalem. The high rate of the dollars to naira necessitates the increase the pilgrimage cost.
Considering the huge cost of undertaking the pilgrimage, what is your Board’s plan towards next year’s exercise? Perhaps, we are planning to bring in some
commercial banks into the system, to create a kind of partnership with them. The idea is to facilitate some kind of savings ahead of the exercise. By intending pilgrims to enable them enjoy a level of sponsorship from the participating commercial banks. These would greatly assist and help the Christian brothers to contribute gradually before the period, as well as increasing the number of individual sponsorships among others.
How many individual sponsorships has your Board recorded this year?
The Board has received few individual sponsorship in respect of this year exercise. The rest applicants are sponsored by the Bauchi State Government.
We have a few individual sponsorship because cost of pilgrim sponsorship is quite high considering the fact that when converted to the dollar, the value is way beyond what many intending pilgrims can afford.
Besides, the present economic hardship being experience in the entire world as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic has not helped matters.
How many intending pilgrims from Bauchi State has your Board registered for this year exercise?
So far, we have registered only 196,000 participants who have committed to perform this year worship at the Holy Land. They actually cut across all the 24 local government areas of the state, and it comprises of both male and female.
What measures are your Board taking to addressing the challenges, particularly computer knowledge, which some of the pilgrims may likely not possess it?
The Board is planning to embark on a series of sensitization, awareness, through the media, as well as organizing workshops and seminars for all stakeholders involved in the process.
The purpose is to see how we can equip the pilgrims with the necessary skills, knowledge so that we can reduce the rate of problem at the holy land.
In addition, the Board is seeking approval from the state government to employ some computer literate personnel to support us to the Holy Land in solving any issues that may arise’
What is your massage and advice to the intended pilgrims from the state?
My appeal to all intended pilgrims from the state and the country at large is that they should endeavor to acquire personal skills and knowledge in computer operations. These will greatly help and assist them throughout their screening procedures as well as other requirements in the Holy Land.
What can you say about your cordial relationship between your Board and the Bauchi State Government?
We have a very good cordial working relationship since my inception as the Executive Secretary of the Board to date. And the state government does support us whenever the need arises. Even the state government that sponsored us on this trip, to assess the State of Readiness and the preparation of the Holy Land, ahead of this year’s exercise