President Goodluck Jonathan on Monday promised to engage governors, who discriminate based on religious beliefs. The president spoke while receiving the report of the Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor-led Federal Government delegation to the 2012 Christian Pilgrimage to Holy Land at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Ayo Oritsejafor had told the President that some states from the North did not sponsor any pilgrim for the exercise, noting that 16, 372 Nigerians took part in the pilgrimage. He named some of the states as Jigawa, Kano, Katsina, Sokoto, Zamfara and Gombe. Although the Federal Government would not force any state government to sponsor pilgrims, Jonathan said such a decision must affect both Christian and Muslim pilgrimages and not one alone.
He said, “Government cannot force state governments to sponsor pilgrims if they don’t want to do so. If they decide to pull out from sponsoring pilgrims, we cannot do anything. But if some states are sponsoring pilgrims of one religion and leaving out the other, that is against the law. Nigeria is a secular state and so nobody should be discriminated against based on religious belief.”
The President said he would engage the governors on the need to ensure that adherents of all religions received equal and fair treatment. Jonathan commended the John Okpara-led National Christian Pilgrims Commission for gaining the confidence of the Italian authorities to the extent that the country now grants visa to intending-pilgrims through the commission.
He added, “I am pleased to hear that Italian authorities now rely on the commission to issue visa to intending pilgrims. It is a sign of confidence in the commission led by John Okpara and indeed in the country.”