Travel between Nigeria and Israel should get easier for tens of thousands of Nigerian pilgrims who visit Israel every year with the expected signing this week of a first-ever bilateral air service agreement.
The long-sought agreement will enable direct flights between the two countries for pilgrims, many of them partially subsidized by the Israeli government for the visit, according to TimesofIsrael.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan is expected to sign the agreement during a visit to Jerusalem, where he’ll lead 30,000 Christian pilgrims, the Nigerian press reported.
Direct flights could boost the number of annual pilgrims above 100,000, which would bring “peace and harmony” to Nigeria, according to Kennedy Opara with the Nigerian Christian Pilgrim Commission.
Many Jerusalem pilgrims say their lives are touched positively by their spiritual encounters and experiences in Israel, Opara said in April.
The need for the agreement was driven in part by the number of Nigerian pilgrims traveling to Israel, said Nigerian aviation spokesman Joe Obi.
“Before now, Nigerians traveling to Israel including Christian pilgrims have had to endure the long-winding stopovers in neighboring countries before being finally airlifted to the holy land,” Obi said.
The agreement is the culmination of months of rigorous negotiations between the two countries, Obi said.
Nigeria previously attempted to negotiate bilateral air service agreements in 2005 and 2012, but was unsuccessful.
Improvements in Nigeria’s aviation infrastructure as well as meeting International Civil Aviation Organisation requirements helped cement the deal, Obi said.