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Amid Crises, Nigeria “on brink of looming collapse”, Bishops Caution, Urge Urgent Action

The President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), Archbishop Augustine Akubueze Obiora

Catholic Bishops in Nigeria have, in a collective statement earlier this week, highlighted multiple crises that are bedeviling the West African nation and called for urgent action lest the country collapses.

In their Tuesday, February 23 statement sent to ACI Africa February 25, the members of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) highlight assassinations, banditry, armed robberies, kidnappings and murders as some of the "persistent crises" in the country alongside COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are really on the brink of a looming collapse. The nation is falling apart,” CBCN say.

"The clamour for self-defence is fast gaining ground," they explain, adding, "Many ethnic champions are loudly beating the drums of war, calling not only for greater autonomy but even for outright opting out of a nation in which they have lost all trust and sense of belonging."

The Bishops continue in reference to Nigerians, "Many have given up on the viability and even on the desirability of the Nigeria project as one united country." 

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Insecurity, clearly evident in widespread loss of lives and property has left the impression that the country’s leaders are “either unable – or worse still, unwilling – to take up the responsibilities of their office,” the Bishops say in their collective statement signed by CBCN President and Secretary, Archbishop Augustine Akubueze and Bishop Camillus Raymond, respectively.

They note “with deep sorrow” the insecurity in Niger State saying the developments in the region “expose our collective vulnerability.”

On February 14, a gang of armed bandits abducted 53 passengers in Kundiu village within Niger State. The passengers, including 20 women and nine children, were reportedly freed on February 22.  

In a separate incident, bandits stormed the Government Science Secondary School in the District of Kagara within the State and reportedly abducted 47 students, three members of staff, and 12 members of their families. The abductees are yet to be rescued.

Making reference to insecurity in various Nigerian States, including Niger State, CBCN members say that there is "an urgent need for a clear strategy between the federal security agencies and the state governments to end the tragedy that we face."

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As a way forward, the Catholic Bishops in Nigeria recommend "a formal meeting of statesmen and women across the board for us to think through the challenges that seem poised to push us into the abyss."

They call on President Muhammadu Buhari-led government to "rise to its obligation to govern the nation; nit according to ethnic and religious biases but along the lines of objective and positive principles of fairness, equity and above all, justice."

According to the Catholic Church leaders, it is not too much for the people of God in the West African nation to demand from the President "sincerity both in the public and private domain."

They urge the country’s political leadership to create room for dialogue with individuals and groups and be open to criticism. 

The members of CBCN further say that Nigerians also need to dialogue with each other across various lined of diversities and identity. 

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"Ethnic and religious groups need to find a way to put their heads together to deal with our common challenges," they say.  

Acknowledging that building a united and prosperous nation under one God comes at a cost, the members of CBCN urge all Nigerians to "seek a common purpose with sincerity of mind."

"As individuals and groups, we ought to be ready to make the necessary sacrifices that would enable us to manage our differences better and turn them into a positive rather than a negative force," the Bishops say. 

They call on the people of God in the West African nation to pray and work for the achievement of "one Nigeria under God where the principle of the common good will be thought out and enshrined." 

"We submit ourselves to the directives of God the Almighty Father to fill us with the wisdom and courage to pull back from this brink of collapse," CBCN members say in their collective statement shared with ACI Africa February 25.