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Nigerians exposed to avoidable deaths via government irresponsibility – Catholic Bishops

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By Millicent Onaga, Enugu 

The Catholic clerics under the umbrella of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria, CBCN, has called on the government at all level to rise to their responsibility  as too many Nigerians  are dying of preventable deaths. 

In an address read by Most Rev. Augustine O. Akubeze, Archbishop of Benin City and President of the CBCN, at the occasion of the second CBCN plenary in Enugu, the catholic clergies lamented that the rate at which many Nigerians are dying requires governments’ urgent intervention. 

The bishops decried the fact that Nigerians are experiencing “A high level of inflation, depreciation of the naira, increased poverty, shortage of food because of herders/farmers crisis, insecurity to life and property, insensitivity and lack of federal government attention to the cries of many Nigerians in the areas of economic revolution, structural development, through eradication of corruption, avoidance of selective sectional appointments to important federal positions, amongst others.

“The federal government has changed the service chiefs after many Nigerians have cried out loudly for change. The change is yet to produce the desired results.                                          

“The level of insecurity in many part of the country is of great concern to us Bishops. Many of us Bishops have had to bury our faithful who died because of attacks by insurgents, bandits, kidnappers, cultists, and those who have died because of road accidents caused by bad roads. Too many Nigerians are dying of preventable deaths, the federal government, state governments and local government areas must rise to their responsibility. 

“The CBCN seriously disagree with any form of electoral system that makes it possible for the votes of Nigerians not to be respected. 

“The world is moving towards a more digital system of administration and the electoral reform must align itself with this change. Electoral transmission of results should be worked on so that rigging of elections at the various points of collation should become a thing of the past.

“Furthermore, the electoral reform should allow a more transparent declaration of election results and expeditious judicial adjudication of electoral matters.

“Every one of us must work for a better Nigeria. We must develop a culture of taking personal responsibility for our actions. The electorate must learn to hold their political leaders accountable for their actions.” 

On the call for self-determination by some regions, the Bishops called on everyone to be calm and exhaust extensive consultation; maintaining that the federal government as well as those leading the call for self-determination should be listened to, saying that everyone must avoid the temptation to demonize those who disagree with them. 

They further stressed that the first step should be an open and unconditional dialogue with every agitating group.

“Dialogue is always better than the taking up of arms. No one should call for the killing of military personnel and no military personnel should intimidate any Nigerian because of their view. Freedom of speech and respect for diversities of opinions must be respected.”

The clergies also expressed concern about the Church (Catholic) and politicians, stating that the Church is keenly interested in the political situation in Nigeria; adding that although the Church does not support any political party, she praises every government that prioritizes the welfare of the citizens and condemns vehemently any government policies that are not people-friendly.

The Catholic top clerics warned that no cleric is expected to use his position or ecclesiastical property for promoting what appears to be partisan politics.  

“Therefore, it is imperative that clerics must avoid every form of political endorsement using the ecclesiastical positions given to them. At the same time, it is not the practice of the Church to identify unelected leaders through some form of prophetic visions or dreams or revelation.  The role of clerics is to educate the people to choose leaders who will work for the good of humanity. We call on diocesan bishops to ensure that appropriate actions are taken immediately when any priest or religious leader violates this traditional Catholic belief.” 

Speaking at the CBCN opening Mass ceremony, Vice President of Nigeria, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, represented at the event by Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, extended his warm regards to the Catholic Church across the country.   

Conveying Prof. Osinbajo’s message, Gov. Ugwuanyi, who also extended the reverential greetings of the government and good people of Enugu State to the Papal Nuncio, Antonio Guido Filipazzi, all the Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops, said, “Our Vice President, an esteemed and urbane Statesman, is widely acknowledged for his manifest practice of the Christian faith and has requested that I convey his best wishes for a very memorable Second Plenary Meeting of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria.”

On his own part, Governor Ugwuanyi assured them that his administration will continue to serve the people of the state with the fear of God, expressing optimism that the religious event will herald blessings for the government and people of Enugu State.

Also in a goodwill message, the Primate of the Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, Most Rev. Henry Ndukuba, who was represented by Most Rev. Buba Ali Lamido, asked the Catholic Church to count on them as they fight the good fight faith for the salvation of mankind, stressing that God will hear the message of the Church as a result of the Plenary Meeting.

Earlier in an address, the Chairman of the Opening Session of the Conference, Chief John Nnia Nwodo, listed the various challenges being faced by the country and offered advice on what the Church can do to effectively engage in rebuilding Nigeria.        

Dignitaries at the event include Francis Cardinal Arinze; the Metropolitan Archbishop of Onitsha Ecclesiastical Province, Most Rev. Valerian Okeke; the host Bishop, Most Rev. Callistus Onaga; the Deputy Governor of Enugu State, Hon. Mrs. Cecilia Ezeilo; former Governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi; the Chief Judge of Enugu State, Hon.  Justice Priscilla Ngozi Emehelu; Senator Ike Ekweremadu; Senator Sir Victor Umeh and his wife, Prisca; Hon. Prince Cornelius Nnaji; and Hon. Dennis Amadi.

Others include former Minister of Aviation, Amb. Mrs. Fidelia Njeze; Secretary to the Enugu State Government and Director-General, South East Governors Forum, Prof. Simon Uchenna Ortuanya; the Deputy Chief of Staff, Government House, Enugu, Prof. Malachy Okwueze and other members of the State Executive Council (EXCO); Special Assistant to the President on Community Engagement, Office of the Vice President, Hon. Barr. Nkechi Chukwueke; the Chairman, Enugu State Traditional Rulers’ Council, HRH Igwe Amb. Lawrence Agubuzu; former Federal Permanent Secretary, Sir Chinyeaka Ohaa; the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Odengene Airshuttle Services, Chief Evarest Nnaji; and the Chaplain, Enugu State Government, Rev. Fr. Chinedu Ozoude amongst others.

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