Akin Akande, Abuja
Contrary to reports that President Goodluck Jonathan would lead 19 state governors and other Nigerians to Israel on pilgrimage, Special Adviser to the President and Publicity, Reuben Abati, has said that such reports were misrepresentation of facts.
Abati in a statement issued in Abuja on Tuesday stated that President Jonathan would tomorrow night proceed on a pilgrimage to Israel.
But he added: “Reports in the media that he is leading 19 state governors and about 30,000 Nigerians to Israel are a misrepresentation of facts”.
According to Abati, President Jonathan would also meet with President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and members of the Israeli Parliament, the Knesset.
Talks between President Jonathan’s delegation and Israeli government officials are expected to focus on the enhancement of bilateral relations between Nigeria and Israel in areas including trade, economic development, infrastructure, transportation, agriculture, communications, culture, education and tourism, the presidential aide explained.
Abati, in the statement also said that the President is also scheduled to meet with the President of the Palestinian National Authority, Mr. Mahmoud Abbas.
President Jonathan, who is accompanied on the trip by Senator Emmanuel Paulker, the Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Akinwunmi Adesina; the Minister of Water Resources, Mrs. Sarah Ochekpe; the Minister of Works, Arc. Mike Onolememen; and the Minister of State (Foreign Affairs), Prof Viola Onwuliri and the National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki, will undertake a tour of some locations in Israel revered by Christians because of their association with the earthly mission of Jesus Christ.
The statement read in part: “While the President may meet and interact with some other Nigerians who are already on a pilgrimage to Israel, reports in the media that he is leading 19 state governors and about 30,000 Nigerians to Israel are a misrepresentation of facts.
“Irrespective of President Jonathan’s visit, thousands of Nigerians visit Israel annually during the pilgrimage season which goes on for months and they will undoubtedly do so again between now and early next year.”
“It is entirely fortuitous for some of these Nigerian pilgrims therefore that their visit to Israel this year will coincide with President Jonathan’s.”
President Jonathan is expected back in Abuja early next week.