The Catholic Bishops of the Onitsha Ecclesiastical province have noted with regret the failure of the lockdown strategy in containing the spread of the novel COVID-19 pandemic, blaming it on corruption. The Bishops gave the verdict at the second plenary meeting for year 2020 held recently at the Bishop’s house, Adazi-Nnukwu in Akwa diocese. Bishops of the Onitsha Ecclesiastical province comprising the Archdiocese of Onitsha, the Dioceses of Enugu, Abakaliki, Akwa, Nsukka, Nnewi, Awgu and the newly created Ekwulobia diocese submitted that corruption “seems to have become part of our national culture.” To curb it, they said, there would be need to re-educate the citizenry, especially young Nigerians on the proper use of the social media. They described as embarrassing recent events at the anti-corruption agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commision (EFCC) and other high profile cases indicting federal government establishments appointees.
They also condemned the extortion of money by security agents, making life unbearable for travellers. On the COVID-19 pandemic currently ravaging the world, the Bishops commended all government officials, agencies, health workers who they noted, are working hard to provide solution and relief to those infected with the virus. They also have kind words for the Priests, Religious and other pastoral agents who, they said have been closed to the people providing them with not only spiritual and pastoral assistance, but also with materials and humanitarian relief. The Bishops advised individuals to take responsibility for their health and that of others and that it would be wrong for the government “to focus attention exclusively on the economy, while neglecting religion and education,” which they added, “are the primary means of inculcating and transmitting values in a society.
” Increasing insecurity and social restiveness, according to the Bishops, was glaring during the nation-wide lockdown giving rise to kidnapping, raping of women, destruction of farm crops, banditry among other vices, emphasising that the establishment of “Forest Guards” by some state governments is a step in the right direction. In the message signed by the Chairman and Archbishop of Onitsha, Most Rev. Valerian Maduka Okeke, the Bishops also thanked God and the Holy Father, Pope Francis for the erection of the new Diocese of Ekwulobia carved out of Akwa diocese on March 5, 2020 and the appointment of Most Rev. Peter Ebere Okpaleke as its first Bishop, installed on Wednesday, 29 April, 2020.