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My desire is to rid NCPC of corruption, says Pam

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Pam

Rev. Yakubu Pam, the new Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Christian Pilgrims Commission (NCPC), until his appointment, chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria in Northern Nigeria (which includes the 19 northern states and Abuja), as well as chairman of the Plateau State Christian Pilgrims Board, recently unveiled his agenda for the Commission to journalists in Abuja. The Guardian’s NKECHI ONYEDIKA-UGOEZE was there and reports. 

You assumed duty as the Executive Secretary of NCPC about fortnight ago. How has it been so far? 
It has been a wonderful experience so far. I am happy that I found myself in a new place with new responsibilities and challenges. I am adapting very quick to the new office and also happy working with new set of people. I have met severally with the staff and management since I resumed.

I used every opportunity to solicit the support of the staff and management to the success of my tenure. I have requested that we work together as family and team. Obviously, some of the staff are yet to key into my vision, but I am looking for the right way to sell the vision to them, as well relevant stakeholders involved in the pilgrimage exercise. Some of them have studied my body language and keyed in, and I am glad that we are collectively making progress as a Commission.

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What is your agenda for the Commission? 
My major desire for NCPC is to rid it of corruption, with the support of the staff. I also desire that NCPC should not be associated with anything that is not pure and corrupt.

Unfortunately, the issue of corruption is everywhere in our country and that does not speak well of us in the comity of nations. NCPC, as agency of federal government that deals with the issue of pilgrimage and spirituality, should not be the associated with corruption.

So, I have committed myself to any cause that will completely eliminate corruption in our operations, restore our reputation and credibility. NCPC staff should possess the character of Christ and not of the world, even though we are in the world.

Our major responsibility is pilgrimage, which has to do with traveling abroad to the holy land. Obviously, our image there is not good at all, as our pilgrims are seen as people that are insincere, cheats and people who love to abscond during the exercise. That gives us a bad image and reputation.

We have had cases where people visit the holy land, not to seek the face of God, but to seek opportunity to abscond. We are now more determined to fight against that this time and ensure that we don’t have such bad records going forward.

To achieve that, we have entered into synergy with some professional organisations and security agencies to thoroughly screen intending pilgrims. Nevertheless, my utmost desire is to improve on our image, which will ensure increased respect and acceptability.

Corruption thrives where there are loopholes, possibly in the establishment Act. How conversant are you with the Act and any section(s) that need amendment? 
I have carefully studied NCPC establishment Act and I also encourage the staff and other stakeholders to also study the Act and ensure they operate within the establishment Act.

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In the establishment Act, the Executive Secretary is recognised as Chief Accounting Officer of the Commission and every other person working in NCPC is expected to support the Executive Secretary, who is recognised by the Act as the boss. By this, I have the power, as provided by the Act, to punish anyone that fails in his or her duty.

I have cautioned the management and staff repeatedly not to operate outside the mandate of NCPC to avoid sanctions. If the Executive Secretary dances to the rhythm of corruption, then staff would have reason to be corrupt. I have sounded it clear to the staff several times that I am not here to enrich myself, but to build a credible institution that other government agencies would be proud to ask for the services of our staff because of their integrity.

What are your fears about the NCPC?
I have only one fear and it is within and not outside. If within the NCPC, we have corrupt staff, people who, despite all effort to improve on transparency and accountability, choose to sabotage it, then they would see the other side of me. There are two sides of me. One is for peace (good relationship) and the other one is for violence, and I always have good reasons for fighting.

Staff should understand my principles and abide by it and we would collectively enjoy peace, growth and serve our people well. Howbeit, I will always ensure that staff get whatever is due for them, financially or otherwise. The image of NCPC is very important to me and I am committed to the cause of rebuilding it, regaining the confidence and trust of Nigerians and foreign partners.

Staff of NCPC should be seen as Christ-like, who should operate in biblical injunctions. We might have had bad reputation in the past, but it is new era now under the leadership of a committed management team that is totally dedicated to the service of Nigerians who desire memorable pilgrimage experience.

Is it safe now for Nigerians to embark on Pilgrimage to holy land at the moment? 
Right now, it is not safe, largely because of COVID-19. However, we are hoping that by December this year, the international skies would be open for travel. We are putting all measures together for a successful pilgrimage once the issue of COVID-19 is settled.

But in the event that it didn’t happen this year, we would prepare for the first quarter of next year.

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How would you tackle the issue of hostility against Nigerians because of skin colour? 
It has to do with the image we portray there. Sometimes, they look down on us because of the kind of behaviour our people exhibit in the holy land. If we improve on our image and behave like global citizens, we would enjoy good reputation and treatment.

We also have to do lots of public relations to improve on our image. We will start with the Israeli Ambassador to Nigeria.

Are you bothered that federal government has stopped sponsoring pilgrims, leaving it to the states and other sponsors? 
We will soon approach the federal government in that regard. However, we are already working on that issue and other related matters. Some people have come up with plans to sponsor pilgrims, with one of them promising to sponsor 400 pilgrims annually. We are also expecting more sponsors soon.

You met with officials of Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) few days ago and they asked that you strengthen the unity among Christians. How do you intend to do that? 
I have been into reconciliation profession for years now. Luckily for me, the government has asked that I continue with that reconciliation job. Church leaders from different denomination have accepted my appointment and are ready to cooperate with me to strengthen the peace and unity of Christians in Nigeria.

Reconciliation of people would be difficult if they don’t trust you. You must secure their trust first before any other action. The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) is preparing a thanksgiving service in conjunction with NCPC in few days time for me. All the five families of CAN have indicated interest to attend. It is not about denominations, but acceptability. Obviously, with their presence, unity and reconciliation is guaranteed.

Their reason for coming is that government has never recognised us for years in the headship of NCPC. But this time, they came to the family of CAN to pick someone to head NCPC. It is an indication that we are here to reunite all Christians, irrespective of denomination.

Do you intend to expand your reconciliation interventions beyond NCPC?
I was based in Jos and I have been doing this reconciliation job for years there. This time, I want to appeal to the government to allow me establish a reconciliation unit in the Commission to help strengthen the chase for peace, unity and tolerance among the people.

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Government wants peaceful atmosphere to communicate its policies and programmes to the people; hence the need for justice and tolerance. For instance, in Taraba State, it is not the Christians and Muslims that are fighting; it is among Christians themselves. Tiv and Jukuns have become serious enemies of themselves, killing and destroying their communities. It has even resulted in denominations fighting each other.

This is one of the missions I want to undertake now to ensure that peace is restored in these Taraba communities. We may have different opinions, but let that not result in fighting and destruction of lives and property.

What would you like to be remembered for at the end of your tenure? 
I want Nigerians to remember me for building a relationship among the people, particularly among the staff of NCPC and other stakeholders involved in pilgrimage.

What is your relationship with your staff? 
It has been cordial so far. However, I want to make NCPC to be like a family; I will plant love and unity among the staff. The era of backbiting and pull down syndrome should not be tolerated anymore in NCPC.

Also, there should be no more competition on destroying the image of one another for whatever reason, either for promotion or other official favours. Every staff should know his or her place in official engagement of the Commission. In addition to that, there should be respect for one another and staff should diligently carry out their responsibilities. Accountability should be the watchword of every staff in whatever they do.

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