By; OLADELE ADEDAYO, Ado-Ekiti
Catholic Bishops in Nigeria have tasked the Federal Government to urgently address the tension and grievances in the country, saying realities on ground negated the promise made by President Muhammadu Buhari, in 2015 during his inauguration as civilian president to ensure national integration and cohesion.
The Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), in a communique at the end of their second plenary meeting in Jalingo, Taraba State, on 15 September,but which copies were made available to newsmen in Ado-Ekiti on Friday said “our country is currently passing through a phase that is marked by tension, agitation and a general sense of hopelessness and dissatisfaction.”
In the communique signed by Most Revd Ignatius Ayau Kaigama (Archbishop of Jos), President; and Most Reverend William A.. Avenya (Bishop of Gboko) Secretary, the clerics also demanded fair treatment from governors of states in Northern Nigeria, claiming that some of their dioceses were denied rights to own landed property.
They said: “We demand fair treatment from those state governments in the North that deny some of our Dioceses their rights to own landed properties for mission work by their refusal to issue them with Certificates of Occupancy. People of different religions need to co-exist, communicate, and be allowed to freely practise their respective religions everywhere in this country.”
On the need to douse the tension in the country and address grievances, the CBCN said Nigeria was “currently passing through a phase that is marked by tension, agitation and a general sense of hopelessness and dissatisfaction.
“This we believe is as a result of years of injustice, inequity, corruption, and impunity. There are agitations in many sectors of the country against the one-sidedness in appointments to key institutions and sensitive national offices, against marginalisation, and unfair distribution of resources and amenities. There are also allegations of cases of selective application of the rule of law.
“In his inaugural speech as civilian President of Nigeria on 29 May 2015, the President sent out a message of hope and of his commitment to national integration and cohesion.
“He said: “Having just a few minutes ago sworn on the Holy Book, I intend to keep my oath and serve as President to all Nigerians. I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody. A few people have privately voiced fears that on coming back to office I shall go after them. These fears are groundless. There will be no paying off old scores.
“More than two years later, the reality on ground and the verdict of most of our people across the nation – irrespective of religious affiliation, ethnic group or social status – point to the contrary. The inability of the government to address the inequitable situation in the country has provided breeding ground for violent reactions, protests and agitations, which exploit the grievances of different segments of the country.”
The clerics lamented what they described as “the continued havoc caused by armed herdsmen in various parts of our country,” saying it “can no longer be treated as mere clash between pastoralists and farmers.”
They added that “apart from wanton destruction of farmlands and crops, some of these armed herdsmen are known to have laid siege on entire villages, killing, maiming, kidnapping, and raping. Besides, there are also reports that some of them are foreigners who have entered the country without proper checks by the competent authorities.
“Such persons are therefore to be considered a great threat to our national and individual security and their activities treated as acts of terrorism. We demand that adequate and prompt action be taken and be clearly seen to have been taken to stop their onslaught.”
They commended the FG, saying “we acknowledge the modest success recorded in the ongoing fight against corruption, the substantial curtailing of the activities of Boko Haram, and the release of some of the Chibok Girls. We note the positive report about the economy gradually coming out of recession. Nevertheless, we expect the Government to put in place economic policies and strategies that will make positive impact on the lives of our people, thereby reducing hardship and advancing the socio-economic welfare of citizens.”