, 01 October, 2020 / 9:07 PM
Catholic Bishops in Nigeria have, in a collective statement on the occasion of the country’s 60th independence anniversary, highlighted multiple challenges bedeviling the West African nation saying the country is “in great distress” and that there seems to be nothing to celebrate about.
In their statement shared with ACI Africa on the eve of the October 1 commemoration, the members of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) pose a series of questions underscoring their dissatisfaction with how Africa’s most populous nation is being governed.
“How can we celebrate when many of our people cannot afford to eat? How can we celebrate when we watch daily, the killings of Nigerians by the insurgents?” CBCN members pose in part.
They make reference to specific kidnappings and pose, “How can we celebrate when Boko Haram is still holding some the Chibok girls, and Leah Sharibu is still being held captive for over three years because she refuses to denounce Christ?”
“How do we celebrate when the Federal Government, without any prior clear warning, allows the epileptic electricity supply tariff to be increased and at the same time removing the fuel subsidy,” the Bishop say, referencing the controversial move that has been described as part of burdens that “are too much on the ordinary Nigerians.”
They add, “It is difficult to ask Nigerians to celebrate when many Nigerians with a minimum wage of N30,000 are asked to provide for their families in the light of the hike in fuel price and the increase in the electricity tariff.”
“It is just unimaginable and inconceivable to celebrate Nigeria at 60 when our roads are not safe; our people are kidnapped, and they sell their properties to pay ransom to criminals,” members of CBCN say in their collective statement dated October 1.
They continue to regret the state of insecurity in the West African nation saying, “Nigerians are experiencing an invasion of their farmlands by armed Fulani-herdsmen; a group well organized and already designated as the fourth deadliest terrorists' group in the world by the Global Terrorism Index.”
The Bishops regret the economic state of the country, which seems to rely on “borrowing with colossal interest.”
“Many Nigerians have observed the rate of Federal and State borrowing with colossal interest to be paid back, and that presently we are servicing our debt with a significant revenue of the country,” they observe.
They add, “The rate of unemployment is growing, and there seems to be no clear plan to fix the economy as well as help the private sector to grow so that many of our youth can be employed.”
“The inadequate facilities in many of our public tertiary institutions are further hampering the intellectual and human skill acquisition of the graduates from these institutions,” the Bishops further say.
They underscore, “An overall review of the State of the nation clearly shows we are legally independent but factually dependent upon our financial lenders.”
According to the Bishops, “Nigeria is still very much in great distress after 60 years of independence.”
On a positive note, the members of CBCN express their optimism about the “ingenuity of many Nigerians” as a reason to be hopeful.
“We know that there are still very many patriotic Nigerians. We know that human resources in Nigeria are greater than natural resources,” they say and add, “The fact that we keep hearing of Nigerians who are doing well in academics, sports, and other areas, once they leave Nigeria, tells us that God has wired in the DNA of Nigerians the potential and capacity to be successful.”
They further affirm, “Nigerians are one of the most dynamic people on earth. This is the foundation upon which we must hope even amid this national crisis at 60.”
As a way forward, the Bishops call on Nigerians to begin the process of transforming the country “within, from ourselves.”
“Each one of us must learn to eschew every form of corruption, indiscipline, praising of corrupt leaders or giving of awards to those who have bankrupt(ed) Nigeria. We must stop the praise-singing of politicians who have failed us. We must stop patronizing mediocrity. We must begin to reward hard work,” they say.
Addressing themselves to the millions of Catholics in the country, the Bishops encourage a firm faith that manifests itself in day to day decisions.
“Let your faith be the compass that guides your daily decisions. Let your faith influence the values you promote,” they say and add, “If all the more than 22 million Catholics in Nigeria decide to allow themselves to be moved by their faith-based conviction, Nigeria will be transformed.”
They extend the encouragement to other believers saying, “If all the Christians and Muslims in Nigeria truly follow the dictates of their religions, we will have a Nigeria that will be the envy of other nations.”
“Our hope is in God who never fails. Human beings may fail us, but those who put their hope and trust in God will always be delivered. With hope, faith, and charity, let us pray and work for the good of Nigeria,” the Bishops in Nigeria say.
“Let us not despair in the face of these daunting challenges and crises facing our beloved country. May Christ help to transform us, for us to transform Nigeria,” the members of CBCN implore in their collective message of October 1 on the occasion of the country’s 60th independence anniversary.
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Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa