Jordan govt seeks closer ties with Nigeria beyond pilgrimages

Jordan has mapped out plans for closer bilateral ties with Nigeria, Jordanian Minister of Tourism and Antiquities, Mr Makram Mustafa-Queisi, said in Amman on Sunday.

Mustafa-Queisi said this when he received the Executive Secretary of the Nigeria Christian Pilgrims Commission, (NCPC), Mr Yakubu Pam, who paid him a courtesy visit.

He said the plans included the expansion of religious tourism, medical tourism, agricultural exchange programmes, cultural exchange, visa extension and cooperation in a number of other sectors.

“I have enjoyed excellent relationship with Nigeria at different levels with solid cooperation; we are keen to enhance this relationship as we need to make people reconnect with our nations.

“I need my people to reconnect with Africa and mainly Nigeria; our doors and hearts are open to facilitate the coming of Nigerians not just for religious tourism, but for exchange of cultures and understanding.

“Culture is very important to us and would be happy to receive a Nigerian cultural band come to Jordan to share your culture on a yearly basis in one of the most important historical places in our country,’’ he said

“I would be more than happy to arrange a meeting with the chairman of the medical tourism association to see how we can explore medical exchange programmes to train medical students.

“The agricultural programme is very important to us as Nigeria is a great country, rich in agriculture that Jordan is willing to learn from.

“I would be glad to arrange for Jordan’s agriculture minister to visit Nigeria for this purpose.

“The Minister of Interior has approved a six-month visa extension with multiple entries for members of the NCPC after which it can be renewed for two years and subsequently granted to every Nigerian,” the Jordanian minister added.

Mustafa-Queisi emphasised the importance of forming partnerships such as this in efforts to address challenges relating to food security, tourism, education and other global concerns.

He noted that Jordan had enjoyed religious tolerance stating that Christians in Jordan are not counted as number, but as part of the Jordanian mosaic.

The minister stated that Christians in Jordan were the original Jordanians before Islam came as a religion of tolerance.

Mustafa-Queisi also told the NCPC executive secretary that Jordan preserved ancient civilisation ruins unlike other countries that destroyed theirs.

He said Jordan has five important locations for Christian pilgrimage recognised and approved by the Vatican with the Baptism site held as the most important as it is considered the birthplace of Christianity.

Earlier, Mr Pam stated that the support and cooperation accorded the NCPC and Nigeria ensured that the country recorded hitch-free pilgrimages every year.

He said that the new plans and development would further boost the relationship between Nigeria and Jordan in tourism, agriculture, medicine and other important areas.

Pam, however, charged the Jordanian government to improve its security surveillance on pilgrims who absconded using the country as a gateway to other nations.