Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa
Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State yesterday cancelled the state sponsorship of pilgrims who intend to fulfill the religious obligation of visiting Mecca and Jerusalem annually.
The governor, who made the assertion while inaugurating a 10-member Pilgrims Welfare Board at the Government House in Yenagoa, explained that the decision was necessitated by the current economic realities.
He urged the board to reach out to other stakeholders, such as corporate citizens, churches, government officials and wealthy individuals for sponsorship, as well as sensitise intending pilgrims on the need for them to take responsibility of the spiritual assignment.
Dickson, however, said the administration would continue to maintain the prevailing enabling environment for adherents of Christianity, Islam and other religions to practice their faiths without any hindrance.
“But let me make it clear that the circumstances of our national economy and the realities of our state economy do not support the practice of the state sponsorship anymore. But, we are going to encourage pilgrims from all faiths to be alive to their responsibilities, who may want to visit the Holy Land to do so,” he said.
Those inaugurated were the Chairman, ArchBishop Israel Ige, Aputu John Dan, Vice Chairman, Bishop Ebi Belepeigha , Secretary and Mrs Pere-ere Koroye, Dame Atonye Barigha as well as Rev John Lewis to serve as members.
Mr. MacDonald Osarebie, Alhaji Yakubu Boleigha, Alhaji Kassim Oru, Pastor Dimaro Ayaebi Are to serve as members.
Meanwhile, Dickson yesterday re-emphasised the need for Ijaw leaders and the people of the Niger Delta to work with the government in making the region stable and peaceful.
The governor made the assertion, when the new Commander of Operation Delta Safe, Rear Admiral Apochi Suleiman paid him a visit at the Government House, Yenagoa.
‘’I want to use this opportunity to assure you that the success of Operation Delta Safe is the success of our state and our government. The reason is that this government abhors piracy, we condemn criminality and in all forms that it rears its ugly head,” he said.
He urged the security outfit to be impartial and highly professional in the conduct of their mandate in the region, assuring that a security summit would soon be convened on the need to curb sea piracy, kidnapping, pipeline vandalism and other forms of criminal acts.
Earlier in his remarks, the new Commander of Operation Delta Safe, Rear Admiral Suleiman, had intimated Governor Dickson of the mandate of his command, which include, protection of oil and gas infrastructure and the prevention of crime in the Niger Delta.