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Bishops in Nigeria Support “alternative” Security Outfits, Say Authorities Have Failed

Bishops of Ibadan Ecclesiastical Province after their July 13 to14 meeting held at Nigeria’s M&M centre, Ilorin, Kwara State.

Catholic Bishops of Nigeria’s Ibadan Ecclesiastical Province have decried the lack effectiveness of security forces in combating violence in the West African country and expressed their support for “alternative and lawful initiatives” that have emerged to restore peace in the country.

The Church leaders from Ibadan Archdiocese, Ilorin, Ondo, Oyo, Ekiti and Osogbo Dioceses addressed the current security concerns in Nigeria in a communiqué shared with ACI Africa Tuesday, January 26 following their two-day meeting.

“With current realities it has become more necessary than ever to demand the review of Nigeria’s security architecture,” the Bishops say at the conclusion of their January 25-26 meeting that took place at the Jubilee Conference Centre in Ibadan.

They explain, “Given the campaign promises of the present government and the cauldrons of insecurity erupting all over the country, it is unfortunate that the Federal Government has remained impervious to this call.”

“As a consequence, we parade a Nigerian Army that has not been able to effectively check the atrocities of Boko Haram for over a decade,” the Bishops further say.

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They blame governors of various Nigerian States for accepting to be impeded and rendered ineffective by the country’s Federal government, at the expense of those that have elected them.

“Such manner of governance, that exerts itself to protect the interest of a segment of the population at the expense of the security of life and property of the majority, makes the emergence of militias and self-appointed messiahs inevitable,” the members of Nigeria’s Ibadan Ecclesiastical Province say in the communiqué signed by their President, Archbishop Gabriel Abegunrin and Secretary Bishop John Oyejola.

Making reference to Nigeria’s emerging self-proclaimed law enforcers, the Bishops say, “We therefore join all well-meaning Nigerians who have called on the authorities to allow alternative and lawful initiatives which are established for protecting life and property.”

They give the example of the South Western Security Network (SWSN), codenamed Amotekun, which they say should be allowed to thrive.

Such initiatives, the Bishops say, deserve to be supported as a complimentary security organization for the benefit of the people in different parts of Nigeria.

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In their two-day meeting, the Bishops also addressed the COVID-19 situation in Nigeria, the activities of the Fulani herdsmen in the country, a way forward to the End-SARS protests as well as the country’s education system, which they say is failing owing to the reported university staff fall-out with the government.

“We plead for a quick resolution to the present conflict in order to resume academic activities in our Universities,” they say in reference to the lecturers’ strike in Nigeria, and add, “The role of mission and private organizations in education should never be underestimated. Government must encourage and work with the mission and private sector to continue to develop our education system.”

Addressing the countrywide youth-led End-SARS protests, which Nigerian authorities curtailed, leading to loss of lives, the Bishops underscore the need to address youth challenges which informed the protests.

“We plead with the Federal and State governments to fulfil the promises made in the wake of the protests and not to ignore the reasons why the protests occurred, as normally happens in Nigeria,” the Bishops say in their 10-point communiqué.

They add, “We appeal to religious and public organizations and citizens to kindly provide empowerment and employment for our teeming youth population so that we can thus partner with the government to reduce youth restiveness in our country.”

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As for the Fulani herdsmen and their reported attacks on innocent civilians, the Bishops note with concern “the insincerity, selfish interests and lack of political will had in the past, caused needless destruction of life and property and inflicted untold pain and hardship on innocent citizens.”

They appeal to governors in various Nigerian States to shun what they referred to as “empty promises on issues that impact the security of life and property.”

“They (governors) must work with the security agencies to courageously implement the law in all cases and sanction those who blatantly and murderously flout it in their territories. No Nigerian or foreigner should be above the law in any part of the country,” they say.

The Bishops also express their solidarity with Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah of Nigeria’s Sokoto Diocese whose criticism of the Nigerian government attracted controversy, with some quarters accusing him of “very serious crimes.”

According to the Catholic Bishops of Ibadan Ecclesiastical Province, their counterpart, Bishop Kukah is the epitome of truth whose example must be emulated.

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“Nigerians must reject mis-informants and commanders-in-mischief who love to manipulate the truth when it does not serve the unjust status quo. So it is, with the recent blitz against the Bishop of Sokoto, Most Reverend Matthew Kukah, who in his Christmas message, x-rayed some problems of this nation,” the Bishops say.

They call on Nigerians to “discern and reject such attempts to discredit and distort genuine expressions of concern for the good of the nation whenever it is made.”

They add, in their solidarity message with the Local Ordinary of Sokoto Diocese, “We stand by people like Bishop Kukah who would courageously speak up and call for genuine change irrespective of tribe, religion or calling.:

“If we all join hands to embrace the truth wherever it is found, we save our own lives and shall much quicker arrive at our destination of a better country for all,” the Bishops say.

They also exhort the faithful in Nigeria to take advantage of the Year of St. Joseph, which was declared by Pope Francis to run from 8 December 2020 to 8 December 2021.

“Let us ask St. Joseph’s intercession upon the fathers in our life and give the saint a special place in our families and prayers,” the Bishops say.

Meanwhile, they have also expressed their appreciation for the Kampala Document launched on January 21 by the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) and urged Church leaders in the country to take advantage of it in their evangelization mission.

“We urge all our Priests, Religious, Lay Faithful, seminaries and other formation houses to access, study and apply the Kampala document to concrete pastoral needs,” the Bishops say.

They add in reference to SECAM’s Kampala Document, “This is necessary so that evangelization efforts of the last 50 years in Africa may be further nurtured and the fruits therefrom, harnessed for further growth and consolidation.”