Tunde Omolehin, Sokoto
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) have condemned the spate of violence and high level of insecurity in the country which have led to the death of many Nigerians.
In a communiqué issued at the end of a week-long second plenary meeting held, in Sokoto, the Bishops noted with greatest dismay how such killings have continued unabated.
The communique was signed by Most Rev. Augustine Akubeze, Archbishop of Benin City and Most Rev. Camillus Umoh, Bishop of Ikot-Ekpene, President and Secretary of the conference, respectively.
The Conference appealed to the Federal Government to defend the life and property of every Nigerian citizen.
According to the Communique: “We observe with deep sadness how unarmed Nigerians are brutally slaughtered, owing to religious and political differences, boundary disputes, and other such reasons.
“We equally observe that Government is often slow in responding to these violent occurrences and often allows many of the perpetrators of these heinous crimes to go unpunished, thus creating a culture of impunity.
“We totally condemn these killings and call on Government to defend the life and property of every Nigerian citizen.
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“Furthermore, we strongly appeal that the thousands of our internally displaced compatriots be helped to return to their homes and their land restored to them as quickly as possible,” the communique read.
The Bishops also called on political office holders in the country to know that they are to provide services for the entire citizenry, irrespective of political, religious or ethnic affiliations.
“They equally have an inescapable duty of providing good governance. In keeping with the provisions of our Constitution regarding freedom of religion.”
The Conference urged Governments at all levels to respect the rights of citizens and groups to practise their religions unhindered.
“In this spirit, Governments should make it possible for religious groups to acquire land for the building of places of worship, schools, hospitals and social welfare facilities whenever the need arises.
“At the same time, we enjoin everyone to avoid acts of religious fanaticism in order to promote peaceful co-existence and harmony. Religion is a matter of conviction, not coercion.”
It also called on the Federal Government to note that the rule of law connotes equality of all under the law and seeks the protection of fundamental rights of citizens against abuse of power.
“We recognise the role of governments at all levels in providing policies for national development, in the areas of economy, politics, provision of social amenities, security, etc.
“Nevertheless, we hold that all forms of pursuit of national interest should be guided by the rule of law and respect for human dignity and development.
“We continually encourage the legislatures to enact good laws and abrogate bad ones, so as to ensure order, safety, good conduct and safeguard the Common Good.
“We also enjoin the Judiciary not to allow itself to be used as an instrument of subjugation, oppression, discrimination, and injustice,” it stated.
On the 2019 general elections, the Conference encouraged all registered voters to ensure that they are equipped with their voter cards and denounced the illegal practices of selling and buying of votes.
“Despite the deception and defections, Nigerian voters must be wise enough to show some of our politicians, who may have so much to hide, that ‘they can run, but they cannot hide.’
“It is the right of Nigerians to fully participate in the electoral process without intimidation and violence. The responsibility for this lies on all of us. We demand that the choice of the electorate, once made, be respected by all,” it stated.
The Bishops also urged the Federal Government to, as matter of urgency, secure the unconditional release of Leah Sharibu and others in captivity.
“She is still being held captive because she refused to denounce her Christian faith. We further demand that the Federal Government ensure the safe release of the remaining Chibok girls and all other persons in captivity against their will.
“We urge their families to remain hopeful and steadfast in prayers, while assuring them of our prayers as well.”