Aokpe Pilgrimage Centre, Benue State has been recognised by Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation, NTDC as a religious tourism site, worthy of recognition and onward publicity to attract more local and foreign pilgrims.
Director-General of NTDC, Mrs Sally Mbanefo, while delivering her speech described the pilgrimage centre as one of the many credible religious tourism sites in Nigeria that need to be promoted within and outside the country.
Mrs Mbanefo said “This will form part of religious tourism like the Winners’ Shiloh and Redeemed Church convention which hold every December in Ota and Lagos respectively. In view of the importance of this site to the good people of Benue State, Aokpe community and Nigeria at large, I hereby approve and authenticate Aokpe Pilgrimage Centre as religious tourism site under the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation Act which encourages religious tourism in Nigeria,
“Aokpe Pilgrimage Centre is our Jerusalem in Nigeria. You do not need to go to Israel for pilgrimage anymore. God has blessed us in Nigeria with one of the world’s most privileged and blessed sites by the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ.
“The Aokpe itself, like so many apparition places, has continued to attract visitors and pilgrims from all walks of life since the activities of the pilgrimage centre hit the headlines in 1995 in Nigeria.
“Aokpe, an Idoma territory in Benue State has become the second largest town in the state due to the apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary who appeared to the Visionary, Christiana Inebu Agbo in October 1992. Since then this place has become a religious pilgrimage centre for both Nigeria and foreign pilgrims who visit Aokpe for spiritual healings and genuine evidence of Christian fidelity and divine entrustment of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mediatrix of all graces.
“Therefore, the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation has recognised and identified Aokpe Pilgrimage Centre as a religious tourism site worthy of recognition and for onward publicity to attract more foreign pilgrims all over the world like Jerusalem in Israel. This will form part of religious tourism for NTDC like Shiloh and Redeemed Pilgrimage convention which holds in December every year in Ota and Lagos respectively and Eid -el Moulud which holds in October yearly.
“In view of the importance of this site to the good people of Benue State, Aokpe Community in Ugbokolo, Okpokwu Local Government area in Benue State, and Nigeria at large, I hereby approve and authenticate Aokpe Pilgrimage Centre as Religious Tourism site under the Tourism Development Corporation Act, which encourages religious tourism in Nigeria.”
Mrs Mbanefo, reaffirmed NTDC’s commitment to exploring tourism to ensure a sustainable growth to the nation’s economy and human capacity development, and also, maintain high best practices in our operations in Nigeria.
She also urged Benue State government to intensify efforts at making the road to the pilgrimage centre motorable.
The authentication of Aokpe Pilgrimage Centre coincided with the 21st Special Day of Grace Anniversary of Our Lady of Aokpe Mediatrix of all Grace, held at the pilgrimage centre.
Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom, while delivering the keynote address earlier disclosed government’s readiness to provide the necessary support to ensure an enabling environment for the realisation of authentication of Aokpe as a pilgrim centre.
Ortom emphasised on the importance of pilgrimage to Christianity and Islamic religion, noting that if the volume of pilgrims who troop to Mecca, Jerusalem and Rome for pilgrimage vis-a-vis the monetary value on the economy of the countries can be replicated in Aokpe, “not only would the rural economy get a boost but the state and country at large would benefit from the multiplier effects of these.
“Aokpe apparition ground has become a prominent religious tourist destination which deserves international attention. I believe that NTDC would project the site as a credible and must-visit pilgrimage centre” he said.
He pointed out the importance for diversification of the economy from the mono-oil economy to a multi-economy.
Ortom expressed satisfaction on the efforts of Sally Mbanefo-led administration for promoting domestic tourism, adding that “Your choice of visiting Aokpe at this time is most appropriate, when Nigeria is currently experiencing economic hardship as a result of dwindling oil revenue. As such the time has come for a diversification of the economy from the mono-oil economy to a multi-economy and, tourism is seen as one of the preferred sectors.
“The Sally Mbanefo-led administration is practically championing the promotion of tourism in Nigeria with domestic tourism as a viable catalyst”.
Benue State Commissioner for Arts, Culture and Tourism, Sekav Dzua Iyortyom, appreciated the efforts of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation for adopting and encouraging the pilgrimage centre as a tourist site on the Nigerian Tourism Map.
Iyortyom, represented by Benue State Director of Tourism, Mrs Dooter Ajoko, expressed optimism that “The world would also come to Aokpe just as we go to Israel and Mecca for Pilgrimage. God has provided for us what we have been praying for, and we shall make sure we sustain it.”
She said “the government intends to promote Aokpe, to encourage domestic tourism instead of spending foreign exchange on pilgrimage abroad. Unfortunately, not many people in Benue are aware of the centre at Aokpe. So, the government wants to promote and develop the centre,”
Ajoko also disclosed plans by the state government to revive the Makurdi airport and construct the access road to Aokpe recalling that past administrations in the state started the seven kilometre Ugbokolo-Aokpe road project, which was abandoned.

READ ALSO  Lagos to take centre stage at Toronto International Film Festival — Commissioner