The federal government has been advised to discontinue forthwith, any further subsidy on annual pilgrimage to Mecca and Jerusalem, as disbursing public funds on wholly religious excursions negates the secular status of Nigeria.
Giving the advice on behalf of the Association of Christian Theologians (ACT), the associationâ€™s National President, Prof. Kunle Macaulay, said he was disgusted to read in the newspapers that the Niger State Government spent N1billion to fund pilgrimage to the holy lands.
His words: â€œA secular nation that states clearly in its constitution that no federal or state government should be involved in any faith is now found spending billions of the tax payersâ€™ funds in subsidising pilgrimage.
â€œThe government of one state in Nigeria spent N1bn in subsidising pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia and Israel respectively. Pilgrimage is for people who wish to visit the holy lands and it is supposed to be for the interest of individuals that can afford it.
â€œOur governments have more important things to do with such a huge amount of money which can be put on education, health or youth empowerment, to reduce the suffering of the masses.â€
Macaulay noted that this subsidy on religious affairs could be diverted to meeting other priority needs of the people, so as not to create the impression that Nigeria is a religious state. Besides, he said many Nigerians are suffering as they are jobless or cannot be gainfully employed, noting that if jobs had been provided with N1billion in a state for instance, many of the job beneficiaries would have been able to sponsor themselves on holy pilgrimage.
Reacting also to the worsening situation in Borno and other northern states over the Boko Haram insurgency, Macaulay observed that the insurgency problem was not festered by poor military tactics but by poor leadership.
He advised that leaders should be selfless and be prepared to place the interest of the country above personal interests.