Eziomume Solomon, Nnewi
Chibuzor Alexander Ibezim is the archbishop, Province on the Niger, Anglican Communion, and Bishop of Awka Anglican Diocese.
He speaks on Boko Haram, spousal homicide, the Abacha loot, women empowerment, and other issues.
There was a recent insinuation that some Boko Haram members are Christians. What is your opinion?
I am worried that rather than combine forces and obliterate the existence of Boko Haram, which is a clear cut Islamic jihadists’ agenda, the Nigerian Army are dwelling on the allusion that some Boko Haram insurgents are Christians. The insecurity situation in Nigeria is overwhelming, and rather than drag Christianity to an Islamic war agenda, the military should face the insurgents, who are bent on wiping out Christians in Northern Nigeria in particular and Nigeria in general. It is painful that several communities have been ruined, property worth hundreds of millions damaged and hundreds of lives maimed and killed; yet, the Nigerian Army still want to apply gimmicks that will divert people’s attention on the issue on ground.
What is your opinion about the prevalence of sex for grades among lecturers and students in Nigerian universities?
Why should academics be associated with sex-for-marks or sex-for-money? It is a dangerous phenomenon and hydra-headed monster everyone, who calls himself an academic, must fight to stop. I condemn anyone in the tertiary institution that is encouraging such because it is blight on the society. It undermines our collective efforts to bequeath a morally upright society to posterity. I charge vice chancellors and the university governing councils across the country to be decisive on this challenge and rid the academic institutions of all undesirable elements.
What is your opinion about the ongoing ASUU strike over the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS)?
I am unhappy that our universities were shut down because of ASUU warning strike over IPPIS, and I want the Federal Government and ASUU to shift grounds and resolve this issue in the interest of the students. I don’t know what they see as the difference between the IPPIS and UTAS, which is University Transparency and Accountability Solution, which the academic staff said is able to tackle the unwholesome issues around wages payment, which government said IPPIS will eliminate. ASUU described IPPIS as fraud; whatever, let there be resolution to the crisis for academic activities to resume in the universities. I should think that the Federal Government needs to consider the peculiarities of tertiary institutions’ academic staff at colleges of education or agriculture, polytechnics and universities during implementation of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS). There should be no reason to deduct voluntary deductions like National Housing Fund from the salary of staff, but fail to deduct statutory deductions like staff cooperative society contributions. It is sad commentary too not to pay staff on sabbatical leave and peculiar allowances like peculiar earned academic allowance (PEAA). Already, there are alarms raised everywhere since the payment with IPPIS started. FG and ASUU should reach a common ground and resolve this festering crisis.
How did you see the recent explosion in Lagos that killed students in a mission school?
The news of the explosion took me aback, as I was pained that such could still happen to our people in this century. I commiserate with the Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos and Archbishop Alfred Martins for the disaster at Bethlehem Girls College, Abule-Ado, Amuwo-Odofin, Lagos, for losing the education director, administrator of the school and some students, who died in the unfortunate incident. I commiserate with other churches of Christ affected by the inferno after the blast. I also commiserate with the government and people of Lagos State, as well as with families and relations of those, who lost their lives, and property in the fire incident. May God console all of them.
How did it sound to you when the FG said it had no record of the $5bn Abacha loot?
I was shocked to hear that the Federal Government has no records on the spending of about $5 billion Sani Abacha loot between 1999 and 2015. It is disgraceful for such a whopping amount to be retrieved, spent and there are no records, according to the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami. The FG also said it has recovered $630 million of the $5 billion since 2018, yet, no records of recovery and spending!
What is your opinion about gender imbalance in government appointments and other workplaces?
Women and girls are being segregated in workplaces, and by extension, suffering from extreme poverty. Let me use this medium to call on companies in Nigeria to be gender sensitive by building an inclusive workplace in order to entrench gender diversity. I am of the belief that in order to attract and retain talented women in companies, gender diversity would be a deliberate act by the industry to provide opportunity for more women to join the labour force. This, I believe, will not only bring about inclusiveness and dynamism in the economy, but will also engineer competitiveness and growth. I passionately appeal to companies and organisations to discard gender inequality in the workplace, and promote gender diversity by integrating women for new scopes and opportunities needed for societal balance. I am of the opinion that if the society collectively and deliberately rises against gender inequality, we shall reduce poverty in our societies and open up for better and sustainable development, good governance and a progressive society. I advocate actions targeted at empowering women in all facets of life and career, by shunning domination by a single sex in work places. Women should be considered in leadership roles, and not be stereotyped or discriminated. Individuals, be them women or men, people with right attributes, should be given leadership roles. I challenge women already in positions to mentor others, and as well, assist other women to advance in their chosen careers. I encourage organisations to improve on their childcare support facilities, as lack of childcare and inadequate childcare support from organisations reduces chances of female participation in some career belts. I warn that women should not be subjected to torture and harassment in workplaces as such attitude deters them from aspiring to break the glass ceiling. Workplaces should not be unsympathetic to working mothers. Women empowerment brings in inclusive, fair and balanced society.
One of the most disturbing issues in society today is spousal homicide; situations where wives or girlfriends kill their men on every provocation. What do you think about this?
I task women to show love whenever they are provoked. They should allow reason to prevail, so that they will enjoy their marriages, rather than kill their spouses. I hate domestic violence, and I urge parties to any marriage to practice tolerance in order not to be associated with domestic violence. I hate violence as a way of expressing one’s anger. People should be able to resolve their problems rather than resort to killing their spouses. Violence against women must not be tolerated; but women must bridle their tongues always and respect their husbands. Men should also love their wives. There is no justification for domestic violence. Domestic violence against women must be condemned by the Church and the society. I decry the rate of homicides these days and the rate at which women kill their husbands for their boyfriends and men friends. We should all rise against domestic violence. Killing should not be part of problem resolution as it does not end the situation. Personally, I don’t like it!