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Nigeria in “great danger unless we bring a new spirit”: Bishops in Owerri, Onitsha

Some of the Bishops of the Owerri/Onitsha Ecclesiastical Provinces during the presentation of their message. Credit: Courtesy Photo

Catholic Bishops in Nigeria’s Ecclesiastical Provinces of Onitsha and Owerri have raised concerns about incessant insecurity in the country.

In a video posted on Facebook Tuesday, May 11 following their extraordinary Onitsha/Owerri Inter-Provincial Bishops’ Meeting on the situation of Nigeria, the Catholic Church leaders say that the West African country is in “great danger” and urgent action is required.

“The state of Nigeria in different parts of our country with so much violence, insecurity and anxiety is a source of major concern to us Bishops. We are speaking to you, our people at various levels of government and across the nation, to see that this nation is in great danger unless we bring a new spirit, a new approach,” they said in the message read by Archbishops Anthony Obinna of Owerri and Valerian Okeke of Onitsha. 

The Bishops of the twelve Dioceses in Onitsha and Owerri Ecclesiastical Provinces added, “The injustice, the insecurity that is very noticeable at various levels of government and high handedness with which government and security personnel approach various segments of this nation has led to public outcry, public dismay and disappointment.”

“There are reactions from the people because they would like the government to respond,” the Bishops add in the 5-minute video.  

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They also express concern about the government’s “lopsidedness of the application of justice”, a situation they term “worrisome.”

“The government has found it necessary to disarm those who are struggling for self-defense while leaving those herdsmen, bandits and others who are killing many and destroying people instead of addressing the source of the problems, addressing the cries of the people,” the Catholic Church leaders said, adding that the leadership of Nigeria is “crushing those who are crying.” 

As a way forward, the Bishops call on the government of the West African nation to apply fairness when dealing with people.

They also call on President Muhammad Buhari- led government to “look into security matters and restrain those who are using weapons of various sorts to intimidate the people and to create this unrest.”

“We expect a stoppage of the carnage that is taking place in farmlands and in various locations,” the Catholic Bishops in the two Nigerian Ecclesiastical Provinces said, calling on all Nigerians to “recognize that every human life is sacred.” 

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“As fellow citizens, we need to cherish one another, bring a spirit of respect, of mutual appreciation so as to minimize and eliminate the bad blood that is circulated in Nigeria and has created this sense of despair in our country,” they reiterated, adding, “God created us and made us to live as a great country but as it is now, this country is a source of dismay across.”

The Catholic Church leaders in Onitsha and Owerri Ecclesiastical Provinces have sought divine intervention saying, “We rely on God to direct us to a more noble path in this nation.”

Nigeria has been experiencing attacks from the Boko Haram since 2009. Insecurity in the country has further been complicated by the predominantly Muslim Fulani militia who have been clashing with farmers over grazing lands. 

In their collective message issued May 6, members of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) called on the country’s ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), to be open to criticisms and to not embark on any form of propaganda against Church leaders who, when they speak, do so for the common good of the nation. 

They said that the APC government should “listen to every Nigerian, both political actors in other parties, and non-political actors in Nigeria and the diaspora.”

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The Catholic Bishops in Africa’s most populous nation cautioned against targeting religious leaders who are vocal against injustices saying there is no need for officials in government to focus their “energy, time and resources in any form of propaganda against religious leaders who disagree with your performance.”

“We speak out because we do not want Nigeria to collapse. We are not speaking out for the APC Government to fail. We are speaking out so that Nigeria will not fail. APC is not the owner of Nigeria; Nigeria is owned by Nigerians irrespective of political affiliation,” Catholic Bishops in Nigeria said in the collective message circulated May 8. 

They added, “There is no need to spend so much of your time trying to blackmail anyone who criticizes your Government.” 

They also called on the people of God in the country to “be united in the fight for our common destiny as a people.”

“No Government leader should watch the breakdown of law and order in Nigeria. It is our collective obligation to make Nigeria successful,” CBCN members said in their May 6 message.