• Wednesday, April 24, 2024
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BusinessDay

Re: How Nigerian Christian Pilgrim Commission cheated me

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  It is not in the character of the Nigerian Christian Pilgrim Commission (NCPC) to engage in press altercation with anybody, most especially pilgrims, but on Friday, March 1, 2013, Efunsola Coker caused the Punch (on page 49) to publish her displeasure at the services provided by NCPC when she travelled on pilgrimage last year (specifically, November 10, 2012).

It is just unfortunate that Efunsola Coker’s ‘expectations’ were not met out of many Nigerians that participated in the year 2012 pilgrimage exercise. When she came back she informed the Commission about her disappointment and explanations were offered and since then it was assumed that everything was over.

It is very true that she paid the sum of N406,150 for the total package and from this, a sum of N232,000 was paid for return flight tickets, leaving a balance of N174,150. She was accommodated for 11 days, 10 nights, fed three times a day (with buffet meals), transported in luxurious coaches to holy sites for these 11 days. Payments were made at some holy sites before pilgrims were allowed to enter, all from N174,150, not to talk of visa fee and administrative charges. At N174,150 divided by 11 days, on daily basis, it amounts to N15,856 and it is from this that Efunsola Coker expected to be kept in a five-star hotel, fed and transported to the holy sites.

NCPC does not keep pilgrims in five-star hotels. Not that there are no five-star hotels in Israel that can accommodate pilgrims, but it will jack up the price and make pilgrimage very unattractive to many Nigerians who would have loved to participate. That is why the Commission settled for three-star hotels.

It is imperative to state that Christian pilgrimage to Israel is a spiritual  journey of a lifetime and should not be taken for tourism or leisure. So whoever is expecting that pilgrimage should be an Eldorado rather than a spiritual rejuvenation and rebirth has missed the whole essence of the exercise.

For the avoidance of doubts, on yearly basis, before we commence operation, the Commission usually embarks on pre-visit exercise to the state of Israel to inspect places to be visited by the pilgrims and the hotels where pilgrims would be kept and in this process hotels that fall below our standard are usually rejected. So if one or two hotels out of over 25 fell below the expected standard of a particular pilgrim, it is not enough to create the impression that activities of NCPC are a scam.

Furthermore, NCPC, being a Federal Government agency, subscribes to the policy of Servicom which centres on service delivery. Consequently, before the commencement of year 2012 pilgrimage exercise, the Servicom unit designed assessment questionnaires that were distributed to pilgrims for the Commission to have a feedback assessment on the range of services we are rendering, so that where we are not doing too well we can improve on them and in the areas we are well scored, we would learn to sustain them and even improve on them. We strive to ensure that pilgrims are well attended to and not short-changed.

In the year 2012 pilgrimage exercise, about 13,500 pilgrims participated. These include deputy governors, deputy inspectors general of police, members of the national and state assemblies, traditional rulers and many other prominent Nigerians. We never had this kind of complaints from any of them; rather, they appreciated our efforts. So it is still a surprise to the Commission for Efunsola Coker to have alleged that she was cheated. How? 

 In the words of the executive secretary of the Commission, “We are not perfect, we know we are not there yet, we will like to know your impressions on the services we are providing so that we can serve you better. It is when you are happy and pleased with us that all of you that have enjoyed our services will encourage others to participate.”

In conclusion, we are open and amenable to constructive criticisms and positive advice, but we take exception to name-calling and outright condemnation of our activities for whatever reasons. If Efunsola Coker is so convinced that she was cheated by NCPC, going round media houses to tell her stories on the pages of newspapers may not be the best available option to seek redress.

 

OLAJIDE OSHUNDUN

Oshundun is special assistant (Media) to the executive secretary, Nigerian Christian Pilgrim Commission