At its 2023 annual conference in Abuja, the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) expressed deep concern over the worsening security situation in the country. The CBCN called on governments at all levels to fulfill their primary responsibility of safeguarding the lives and property of Nigerians.
In a statement issued on Sunday, the CBCN highlighted the persistent challenges posed by insurgents, herdsmen militia, bandits, and so-called unknown gunmen who continue to inflict terror in various regions of Nigeria.
“Kidnapping for ransom has continued. Some of our communities have been completely taken over by criminals. The result is that many have fled their homes and abandoned their farms, shops, businesses, and other sources of livelihood. The throng of internally displaced persons in our country is ever-growing, with many children out of school, making them easy prey to human traffickers,” lamented the CBCN.
The CBCN also pointed out that the sit-at-home orders in the South-East have exacerbated the insecurity situation in Nigeria, contrary to recent claims by the Nigerian Military regarding the end of the sit-at-home saga.
The clerics strongly condemned the killing of a young seminarian, Stephen Danladi, from Kafanchan Diocese and all other victims of violence across the country. They expressed their condolences to the bereaved families and prayed for the eternal repose of the deceased.
“Many have lost their lives for failing to adhere to such illegal directives,” it said.
The CBCN called on governments at all levels to uphold their primary duty of safeguarding the lives and property of Nigerians. They emphasized the urgency of addressing the security crisis, stating that “the blood of the innocent continues to cry out to God for vengeance like Abel’s (Cf Genesis 4:10).”
In addition to addressing security concerns, the CBCN also discussed the state of the nation’s economy. They highlighted the challenges faced by Nigerians, including poverty, hunger, hardship, and suffering. The removal of fuel subsidies has led to higher costs of essential goods, transportation, and education, particularly impacting the less privileged.
“Our failing and worsening economy has continued to make living difficult and hard for our people. Nigerians have been subjected to a life of poverty, hunger, hardship, and suffering.
The CBCN urged the government to address the structural issues that perpetuate inequality and poverty in the country. They called for the creation of more job opportunities for unemployed youths and measures to curb the theft of oil and minerals.
“Based on past experience, we consider the resort to palliative measures as a treatment of the symptom rather than the cure for the disease. We, therefore, urge the government to address the fundamental defective structures that deepened inequality and poverty.
“We call on governments to provide the enabling environment for the creation of more jobs for our teeming unemployed youths. We equally encourage the government to put in place measures that will curb the persistence of theft of oil and other minerals. At the same time, we enjoin the government to radically review programmes aimed at alleviating the suffering of the Youth. We equally advise the Youth not to resort to violence and crime as a substitute for hard work,” the CBCN added.
Furthermore, the clerics demanded a reduction in the cost of running government and emphasized the need for moral education in families, schools, and public institutions.
“We, therefore, demand that the governments cut the increasing cost of running government in our country and that the money saved be used to provide essential amenities and services,” they said.
The CBCN encouraged Christians and people of goodwill to actively contribute to the nation’s rebuilding by promoting social justice, the rule of law, and respect for others while rejecting actions that hinder peace and development. They stressed the importance of moral integrity and honesty in society.
“Religion, as it were, brings to focus the inalienable place of God in human history. In Nigeria, we have three main religions: Christianity, Islam, and African Traditional Religion. These religions have enjoyed mutual co-existence over time and agree on the sacredness of human life, moral uprightness, justice for all, especially for the poor and the vulnerable, respect for elders and those in authority, and many other common values.”
“We invite all Christians, and indeed all people of goodwill, to be salt of the earth (Cf. Matthew 5:13-16), in the quest for rebuilding our nation through political participation, contribution to sustainable development, promotion of the common good, social justice, the rule of law, and shunning primordial interests that inhibit peace and development of the society,” they said.
“One who has moral integrity does the right thing always, takes responsibility for his or her actions, treats others with respect, and is honest. These qualities are necessary for rebuilding a strong and cohesive society. Unfortunately, our country is in a serious deficit of moral rectitude, which is demonstrated in increasing corruption, cybercrime, and other forms of criminality, blatant lies, and dishonesty.
“As Bishops, we are concerned that moral education is not given adequate attention in the families, schools, formation programmes, and public institutions,” the statement added.
In conclusion, the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria voiced its deep concern over the security and economic challenges facing the nation and called for urgent and concerted efforts to address these issues for the well-being of all Nigerians.