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At Vigil Mass for Recently Murdered Nigerian Priest, Bishop Faults Government for Laxity

Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah of Nigeria's Sokoto Diocese/ Credit: Sokoto Diocese/Facebook

At the celebration of Vigil Mass ahead of the burial of Fr. Alphonsus Bello who was murdered following the May 20 attack on St. Vincent Ferrer Malunfashi Parish of Nigeria’s Sokoto Diocese, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah has faulted the Nigerian government for laxity in ensuring security for citizens. 

In his homily during the Monday, May 31 Eucharistic celebration at Our Lady of Apostles Catholic Church, Independent Way, Kaduna, Bishop Kukah called on members of the executive to rethink their oath of office.

“There is nowhere in the world where people are dying like they are in our country. There is nowhere in the world where the barbarity and the treatment of human life are manifested as it is in Nigeria. There is nowhere in the world where citizens can be slaughtered daily without the government showing the slightest sign of empathy or concern for what is going on,” Bishop Kukah bemoaned.

He added, “I think the President of Nigeria and some of the governors can actually address Nigerians and say, fellow Nigerians, I have sworn that I will not protect you. I will not protect you from foreign invaders, I will not protect you from being killed. I will not protect you from being kidnapped, I will not protect you from bandits, I will not protect you from abductors.”

Members of Nigeria’s executive need to rethink their oath of office and say, “I will not protect your children when they are captured; if they are lucky to be alive, fine,” Bishop Kukah said, adding that government officials at both national and State levels need to consider making the following confession, “My dear countrymen and women, know that our own children are not in public schools where they can be kidnapped. If your children are kidnapped, you are on your own."

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Government officials, the Catholic leader continued, need to tell Nigerians, “If you want to go to the murderers you can go. We do not negotiate with murderers because if you negotiate with murderers, you are guilty and although you are guilty, we as a government know all the kidnappers by their names, and we have never declared the kidnappers to be terrorists.”

“We will not be there when you bury your dead. We will not be there when your broken houses are being rebuilt. We will not accompany you to your farms if you are ready to farm and the price of foodstuff will go up but it is not our business. And by the way, we will not protect your farms,” the Nigerian Bishop continued in his attempt to highlight the failures of the Federal and State levels of Nigeria’s government to ensure security.

In the face of abductions and killings, the Catholic leader said, members of Nigeria’s executive could admit failure by saying, “We are your government. We did not force ourselves on you, we did not come by a coup. You elected us. So, fellow Nigerians, bear the consequences of your choices.”

Fr. Bello was killed during the night of May 20 after gunmen attacked his Parish. Bishop Kukah is spearheading negotiations to secure the safe release of Fr. Joe Keke who was kidnapped the same night Fr. Bello was murdered.

Nigerians have also witnessed mass abductions of school-going children and other forms of attacks in recent days.

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Nigeria “stands on a threshold between light and darkness, between good and evil, between death and life,” Bishop Kukah said during his May 31 homily, adding that the country’s heightened insecurity began when politicians “started to use democracy to install a theocracy.”

He explained in reference to politicians in Africa’s most populous nation, “They had no commitment to democratic ideals of integration, diversity, good governance and the proceeds of the principles of a democratic society.”

Politicians, he added, “decided to turn to their supporters by claiming that they will institutionalize a theocratic state in Nigeria by creating a Sharia State in Nigeria … Now we are leaking blood inspired by false promises.”

According to the Nigerian Bishop who has been at the helm of Sokoto Diocese since September 2011, the “continuous barbaric slaughter and murders of our people suggest that our beautiful national assembly, government houses and private jets, exotic homes are not evidence of civilization because we are far from the frontiers of civilization.”

Amid what he termed "tragic times", Bishop Kukah called for "renewal and commitment of faith and the belief in the redemptive power of God.”

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“As Christians, no matter the turbulence our society lives in, we must stand by the promises of God. As Christians, we remind ourselves that only the purifying blood of Jesus Christ offers us hope,” the 68-year-old Bishop said.

He appealed to the people of God in Nigeria, “We must uphold the hand of God as the only assurance and guarantee of our hope.”