These are Nigeria’s “difficult but defining moments,” Prelate Says amid Growing Protests

Candlelight procession held for victims of SARS protest across Nigeria.

After testimonies of excessive use of force against protesters in Nigeria emerged, including reports of at least a dozen deaths and renewed demonstrations in various cities of Africa’s most populous nation, a Catholic Archbishop has described the country’s situation as “difficult” but presenting an opportunity for a transition.

In his Thursday, October 22 statement, Archbishop Alfred Adewale Martins who is based in Lagos, Nigeria’s largest city, calls on the people of God under his jurisdiction to collectively seek divine intervention “on our knees.”

“These are really difficult but defining moments and so we need to pray the Rosary more fervently than before, say the Prayer for Nigeria in Distress and the Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel,” Archbishop Adewale says.

In his statement, he urges “all the faithful, brothers and sisters, to go down on our knees in prayers for our country” and making reference to the Holy Rosary and the Prayer for Nigeria in Distress, the Archbishop adds, “These are some of the Treasures of the Church by which we seek the intervention of heaven in our moments of difficulty.”

Addressing himself to the members of the Clergy under his case, the Nigerian Prelate directs that they “celebrate at least one Mass a day for the return of peace to our land, for the repose of the souls of the young ones who have died during these protests and the consolation of their families.”


The Masses are to be celebrated for the next nine days (Friday, October 23 to Saturday, October 31), the 61-year-old Archbishop directs in his October 22 message.

He calls on the people of God in Lagos Archdiocese to “say the Prayer for Nigeria in Distress” on a daily basis after the Angelus.

Archbishop Adewale further calls on families and individuals to “pray the Rosary after which they should say the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel seeking his protection from all evil in these difficult days.”

Nationwide protests led by the youths began on October 8, after a video showing police officers of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) shoot and kill a man in the Delta State emerged.

On October 11, Nigeria’s Inspector of Police announced the disbandment of SARS “with immediate effect,” with its members expected to be redeployed to other police formations, commands and units. The force had existed as a branch of the Nigerian Police Force.

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The protests however continued in the West African nation, with the demonstrators demanding for reforms in the country’s structure of governance. 

On Tuesday, October 20, the government deployed members of the Army to curtail the demonstrations alongside the declaration of a 24-hour curfew in the country’s largest city, Lagos. Several people were reportedly killed and others severely injured at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos State.

In his October 22 statement, Archbishop Adewale who had earlier issued a statement supporting the protests says that the “much-desired change” that Nigerians hoped for with the protests “was put on hold when government decided to unleash the army on the unarmed and peaceful protesters who were calling for a legitimate change that would guarantee their future as well as give us a country that we can be proud of.” 

Making reference to the October 17 statement by the Catholic Bishops in Nigeria, he said, “We had warned in a Press Release before then that Dialogue and not force, is the way out of the morass.” 

“Now many young people have been killed and many more injured,” Archbishop Adewale laments and adds, “We are at a crossroad and it would seem that we are gradually descending into a state of anarchy.”


As a way forward, the Nigerian Archbishop says, “We hope that the government would heed the call of the UN and investigate how the command could be given and who gave the command that live bullets should be used on unarmed and peaceful protesters.”

“This is necessary so that people would show more responsibility in carrying out their duties,” he says referencing the message by the UN Chief, António Guterres.

The Archbishop also calls on those taking advantage of the situation to destroy property to cease wreaking havoc saying, “As much as their anger and frustration is understandable, acts of violence, vandalism and destruction would only turn an otherwise noble objective into a problem for everyone.” 

“If Nigeria would be better for all, there must be a focus on the objectives of the #EndSARS movement and never allowing any action that would undermine its purpose,” the Local Ordinary of Lagos further says.

He goes on to encourage the people of God under his pastoral care to be security conscious and to keep safe in these challenging times. 

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“We are assured of the presence of God with us and we know that all things shall work together unto good for all us who love God. Our country has always been blessed; we believe that the grace and glory of the Lord shall not depart from our country,” Archbishop Adewale says in his October 22 statement.

Magdalene Kahiu is a Kenyan journalist with passion in Church communication. She holds a Degree in Social Communications from the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA). Currently, she works as a journalist for ACI Africa.