• Ask parishes all over the country to hold candlelight procession on October 1
By Neta Nwosu
The Federal Government’s handling of what has been described as Nigeria’s gravest security challenge has again drawn heavy concerns, from the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN). The Bishops said the mounting killings have put Nigeria’s collective existence on the edge, calling on the government to genuinely crush insecurity with the deserving commitment and sincerity. The Bishops’ position was expressed in a Communique, jointly signed by Most Rev. (Dr.) Augustine Obiora Akubeze and Most Rev. Camillus Raymond Umoh, Chairman and Secretary of CBCN, raising the alarm over the activities of bandits, and Boko Haram insurgents that have taken a dangerous dimension in the country. In the past week alone, over 200 people have been killed, according to local media reports, with Plateau State experiencing more bloodbaths, in Africa’s most populous nation. “We strongly advocate total respect for the sanctity of human life. Regrettably, except for the civil war, our nation has never witnessed the kind of widespread evil, wanton destruction and murderous bloodletting. “Life has never been so cheap, nor has Nigeria ever been at the stage we are now.
Deaths in the hands of kidnappers, killer herdsmen, bandits, terrorist groups have made Nigeria one of the most terrorized countries in the world. “The abductions of school children, present us with the prospects of a traumatized generation of young people. “We recognize the efforts being made by Government to fight insecurity in the land. However, we stress that Government needs to show more strategic commitment and sincerity in this fight, and take full responsibility for the present culture of violence and impunity in the country. “Furthermore, Government must be balanced and seen to be so in its response to the challenges of security in every segment of the citizenry. ‘In the same vein, we call on all citizens to be law-abiding, vigilant, live by sound moral principles, and above all, obey the commandments of God. “We continue to plead with all, to shun violence and criminality. We urge Government at all levels, to provide the enabling environment that would make it possible for both the Government and the private sector to create job opportunities for our teeming youth. This would surely reduce the danger of insecurity and unrest in our land.
Several weeks after the arrest of Yoruba Activist, Sunday Igboho and pro-Biafra activist, Nnamdi Kanu, legislators, activists and well-meaning Nigerians have continued to slam the Buhari administration over their arrest. They wondered how Buhari’s government has failed to arrest bandits wreaking havoc in some parts of the country, but employ all its might to arrest separatists. While many Nigerians have continued to prevail on the Federal Government to employ same intelligence deployed to arrest the separatists for bandits, kidnappers and Boko Haram terrorists, to secure the nation, CBCN urged the Federal Government to be guided by the provisions in the constitution regarding equity, equality, fairness and justice for all Nigerians. The Bishops however noted that gross human rights abuses, injustice, unfairness and bad governance have led to disenchantment with the leadership system, especially among the rapidly growing youth population.
“We are grateful to God that we still exist as one nation. This is in spite of sundry agitations and struggles for self-determination. We observe that the agitations and tensions are mainly as a result of bad governance, injustice, inequity, and unfairness in appointments and distribution of resources to parts of the country. “We recognize the rights of peoples to self-determination; yet we emphasize that the exercise of such rights must be within the confines of the rule of law. We urge the Government to ensure a just and fair trial of the arrested key players in the struggles. To mismanage these cases is to trigger off further avoidable unrest. “We urge both Government and citizens to work for a nation in which everyone and every part, irrespective of differences of tribe or religion, or political affiliation, will have a sense of belonging.
“We reiterate that the struggle for the ‘soul’ of Nigeria that is currently ongoing, will not be won by ethnic cleansing, nepotism, kidnapping and banditry, but by love, fairness and equity, common good and patriotism. “We therefore enjoin Government and all Nigerians to toe the path of justice and conciliatory dialogue and see themselves as agents of peace and development, in order to ensure a harmonious and united nation. The CBCN commended the National Assembly for the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB). “While we congratulate the Federal Government for enacting the Petroleum Industry Act 2021, we advise that the Federal Government addresses the genuine concerns of the people regarding some clauses in the Act. “It is our hope that the implementation of the provisions of the law will truly serve the common good,” they stated.
On politics and electoral reform, the communiqué read further, “We as Church are keenly interested in the political situation of our country. Although, the Church does not support any political party, but she supports every Government that prioritizes the welfare of the citizens. “In the same way, the Church vehemently condemns Government policies that do not promote development and the common good. We insist that there is an urgent need for a fair and credible electoral process, through which our political leaders emerge. “We therefore state it loud and clear that the recent voting by the National Assembly against electronic transmission of results of elections will create opening for further manipulation of electoral votes, and lay the foundation for more conflicts in future elections.
We call on the National Assembly to reconsider its position in the light of world best practices.” On a final note, the Catholic Bishops urged the citizens to never give up hope for a better Nigeria in spite of the frightening insecurity situation of the Country. The prelates advised the people to take solace in God, as well as play their role as good Christians and citizens, for the general good of the society. “As Christians, we are called to constantly hope in God, who never fails. The virtue of hope enables us to seek eternal happiness and union with God, and happiness on earth, as we place our trust in Christ’s promise, and rely not on our strength and ingenuity, but on the strength and grace of the Holy Spirit (Catechism of the Catholic Church no. 1817).
We therefore call on Nigerians to hope for a better Nigeria, knowing full well that without hope, we as a people cannot move forward. “No matter how difficult the times are, no matter the situation we may find ourselves, let us continue to hope in God, and feel secure because our hope will not disappoint us (Rom 5:5). We however need to cooperate with God, to attain the better days for which we pray and hope. We ask that, on October 1 every year, parishes all over the country hold a candlelight procession and pray twenty decades of the rosary, for peace and unity of our country. The Bishops’ prayer for the nation; “May the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of all consolation and Queen of Nigeria continue to intercede for our country. Amen.”