It has been annual practice of Nigerian states for years now to send selected indigenes of the state on pilgrimage to Mecca and Jerusalem, but Edo State will not be sending pilgrims to the holy lands this year.
Governor Adams Oshiomhole, on Thursday, made this known as he said the state government would not use taxpayers’ money to subsidise pilgrimage to holy lands, describing the exercise as “a luxury”.
Oshiomhole who stated this while receiving commissioners and officials of the Nigerian Christian Pilgrim Commission in Benin, the Edo State capital said, “For those who want to travel for pilgrimage, we cannot discourage them, but what I am not ready to do is to take taxpayers’ money to subsidise someone who wishes to go and pray. I have issues with that because people who pay taxes work so hard to pay.
“If you look at the totality of the challenges that we face, many are homeless, so many communities are without water, many schools we have rebuilt and still many more to be done. Many people are unemployed, many are hungry; quite a number are in the hospital, who are not able to pay their bills. When you look at all these and several other problems, I am of the opinion that pilgrimage is not a priority.”
The governor added, “I have a deeper insight into the challenges that confront the Nigerian nation and even Edo State. I have come to the conclusion that pilgrimage is a luxury. Even from the point of view of the poor, a man who has no roof over his head cannot be spiritually uplifted if he goes to Israel and returns to a state of homelessness.
“I would rather subsidise production, education and health care, because these are central to the survival of our people. So, this is an issue to which I have very strong position.
“Government is not going to campaign for more people going on pilgrimage as this puts more pressure on the exchange rate.
“In any case, only clean heart, rather than pilgrimage is what will decide our place hereafter.”