Nigerian pilgrims in Israel are well protected and safe in spite of the recent crisis between Israel and Hamas, said Mr John-Kennedy Opara, Executive Secretary of the Nigeria Christian Pilgrim Commission (NCPC).
Opara, who said this while briefing journalists in Abuja on Friday in view of recent violence between Israel and Hamas, insisted that the 2012 pilgrimage was on course.
The violence ended after Egypt brokered a cease-fire announced late on Nov. 21 after eight days of air strikes and missile fire in which 167 Palestinians and six Israelis were killed.
The executive secretary said the NCPC had no plans to suspend the ongoing exercise, stressing that the commission was in touch with authorities in Israel and Egypt on the safety of Nigerian pilgrims.
He, however, added that the commission had suspended the movement of Nigerian pilgrims to Sinai in Egypt and other sites in the Palestinian areas.
Opara said that the decision to suspend movements was based on reports received from the ground handlers in Israel and security operatives in the affected areas.
"I want to state clearly today that Nigerian pilgrims in Israel are safe; we are in constant touch with security operatives in Israel and Egypt on the situation over there.
"There is no cause for alarm, we are monitoring the situation; what we have done is to approve the suspension of movements to the Sinai area and other sites in Palestinian areas," he said.
Opara assured Nigerians that the security of pilgrims in Israel was paramount to the commission and other stakeholders in sector.
He said that the 2012 exercise would proceed as planned and that the commission would maintain its schedule for the pilgrimage.
The NCPC boss said that so far more than 5,000 pilgrims had been transported to the Israel while about 4,000 had returned.
He added that the first batch of pilgrims to Rome and Greece for the 2012 exercise will leave the country on Nov. 26. The 2012 exercise started on Oct. 25 in Lagos with about 326 pilgrims.