President Goodluck Jonathan pilgrimage to Israel is spiritual and not a state visit, the Executive Secretary, Nigeria Christian Pilgrim Commission, Mr. John-Kennedy Opara, has said.
Opara made the clarification at an interactive session with journalists on the president’s participation in the 2013 pilgrimage in Abuja on Friday.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the signing of a bilateral agreement on aviation with Israel has sparked a debate on the nature of Jonathan’s visit to Israel.
There is divided opinion as to whether it is a state visit or a spiritual journey for pilgrimage.
Opara said Jonathan’s visit to Israel would strictly be for pilgrimage, insisting that the visit would be different from the president’s usual state visits abroad.
He said the Israeli authorities might choose to accord the president the honour it usually gives to visiting Heads of State.
He said the president would only facilitate the signing of the agreement, all other arrangements had been put in place by officials from Ministries of Aviation and Foreign Affairs.
“It is not a state visit, he is going on a spiritual journey. However, a president is a president anywhere he goes to.
“The bilateral agreement that we are talking about will be concluded upon on the October 29 which is about his final activity in Israel.
“Of course, the Israeli authorities are aware of his coming and they will accord him that respect as a sitting president of Nigeria, that it is not a state visit,’’ Opara explained.