No fewer than 13 pilgrims of the 156 who travelled to Israel on pilgrimage last year absconded, the Delta Commissioner of the Bureau for Special Duties, Mr. Ernest Ogwezzy has said.
Ogwezzy who spoke in Asaba on Monday said that the pilgrims to the Holy Land, made up of 146 people and 10 officials, were sponsored by the state government.
He assured that the government has put in stringent measures to check future occurrence.
He said: “The state government frowns at pilgrims absconding. We will not tolerate it. It is supposed to be for religious obligation. We have put stringent machinery in motion to ensure that pilgrims sponsored by the state government come back.”
For 2015, Ogwezzy disclosed that 200 pilgrims and four officials were sponsored while a total of 104 persons made up of 100 pilgrims and four government officials embarked on the pilgrimage in 2016 at the expenses of the state government.
For Muslims, he noted that in 2015, 107 persons were sponsored by the state government to Saudi Arabia, 88 in 2016 and 75 persons last year.
According to Ogwezzy : “While in 2016 the state government sponsored the chairman and executive secretary and two officials to lead the pilgrims in the Hajj operation to Mecca and Medina. There were no cases of death, abscondment or embarrassment.
The commissioner said that a total sum of N43, 219,750 was realized as Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) by the Delta State Fire Service between 2015 and 2017 while the figure for the first three months of the year stood at N9, 739 million.