The Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria has warned Nigerian leaders to rise above politicking and selfish interests and restructure the country to engender equity and justice.
The Ibadan Province of the body made the call on Wednesday in a communiqué signed by the President, the Most Rev. Gabriel Abegunrin.
The Ibadan Province comprises Ibadan, Ilorin, Ondo, Ekiti, Oyo and Osogbo Dioceses of the Catholic Church.
The bishops had earlier held their meeting at St. Kizito’s Pastoral Centre at Ede in Osun.
“The ongoing discourse about restructuring in Nigeria has gathered considerable momentum.
“In the process, different definitions have emerged on what restructuring could mean and what form such a process should take.
“It is regrettable that an issue of such importance that should be an issue of justice can be subjected to so much intellectual gymnastics, political sentiments and personal interests.
“Most people in Nigeria agree that as it is currently constituted, our country is simply not serving the development and self-realisation of most of its citizens and therefore needs to be revisited.’’
On the education sector, the bishops advised government at all levels to be vigilant and curb the encroaching Comprehensive Sexuality Education and dubious Maternal Health procedures.
“Governments should not spend public money on the proliferation of artificial contraceptive methods to the neglect of basic infrastructure and the grassroots health needs of our people.’’
The bishops said that the Catholic Church, long before Nigeria’s independence, had invested its resources in education because of its commitment to the holistic development of the citizenry.
“This has brought great benefit to many individuals and institutions in Nigeria.
“We, therefore, demand that government at all levels recognise the status of the Catholic Church as a mission and non-profit institution.
“It is unfair and unjust, therefore, to penalise such an institution which serves the people, irrespective of creed or tribe, through multiple taxation and debilitating laws.’’
The bishops, who also condemned the recent killing in a Catholic church in Ozubulu, near Nnewi in Anambra, said that lives were sacrosanct and should be protected by all means.
“We commiserate with the bishop of Nnewi Diocese, the government and people of Anambra State and several families directly affected by the mass murder which occurred on Sunday at St. Philip’s Catholic Church, Ozubulu, Anambra State.
“We uphold still the sanctity of every human life given by God and not to be taken away by anyone and, therefore, can never denounce enough the evil of such a horrendous and callous killing of innocent worshippers right in the church during the holy mass.
“The bottom line is that the security situation in Nigeria remains at best, fragile. We strongly condemn whatever may be at the root of this and similar occurrences.
“Those that are charged with securing human lives and property in the nation must simply do more to protect the citizens. The proliferation of arms in Nigeria deserves urgent and decisive action.
“We call on all our faithful to pray that the souls of the departed may rest in perfect peace and that God may bring enduring peace to Nigeria.
“We also reiterate that the right of all Nigerians to freely adhere to any religion of their choice is sacrosanct and must be protected by all legitimate means.’’
The bishops, who commended security agencies in Nigeria for their commitment to the integrity of the nation, urged them to eschew all forms of corruption, nepotism and betrayal and fight for the unity and integrity of Nigeria.
“We regret the recent resurgence of Boko Haram activities in the north eastern part of Nigeria. The criminal group seems to have returned with double strength.
“We commend the presidential order that has returned the military service chiefs in full force to the centre of the battle.
“Sadly the wanton destruction of lives and property in Southern Kaduna is also yet to abate.
“All Nigerians have the responsibility to collaborate with the security agencies by giving information where necessary and obeying the rules of vigilance and personal security at all times.’’
The clerics decried what they described as the degeneration of the moral fibre of society, due to many internal and external factors.
They said that the aggressive assault of new age, decadent ideologies, particularly from the western world was threatening to overwhelm Nigeria’s cultural and spiritual values.
“These seem to gain momentum everyday through strategies of intimidation and inducement of even political, traditional and religious authorities by foreign countries, international organisations and powerful individuals.
“The socialising institutions of society like the family, the school and the media too, have been considerably weakened by economic and political forces.
“We appeal to families, guardians, religious, traditional and political leaders to be vigilant and work together to protect and strengthen our cultural, moral and religious values,’’ they said.
The bishops condemned the current situation in many states in Nigeria, where workers were not paid promptly and regularly for work done.
“Regular remuneration for work done is a matter of justice. Pensioners also continue to languish in painful expectation of their entitlements and many families and individuals are deprived of their legitimate livelihood.
“This has brought untold suffering and resentment within the society. We strongly urge the governments of affected states to rectify this miserable situation.
“A resentful citizenry cannot be effectively mobilised for any meaningful development,’’ they stated. (NAN)