From Fred Ezeh, Abuja
Catholic Bishops under the umbrella of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) have raised the alarm over rising insecurity across Nigeria, which they said, has made churches and other worship centres vulnerable to attack.
The CBCN stressed the need for precautionary measures to secure the church premises and other church institutions, hence it direct all dioceses and churches to take an improved measures to beef up security in their local assemblies.
CBCN President, Most. Rev Lucius Iwejuru Ugorji, disclosed the development in his speech delivered during the opening session of the 2022 second plenary assembly of the CBCN held at the Sacred Heart Pastoral Centre, Oriu, Imo State, on Sunday.
He lamented: “We are passing through what might be deemed as the darkest chapter of our history as a nation. Extreme poverty, soaring unemployment rate, spiralling inflation, collapsed economy with increased debt burden and worsening insecurity. These have complicated the plight of the average Nigerian who appears condemned to a life of intolerable hardship and undeserved misery.
“Nigeria has continued to bleed endlessly as a result of the ungodly activities of insurgents, bandits, militant herdsmen, unknown gunmen, kidnappers and trigger-happy security agents. Nowhere seems safe anymore as homes, farmlands, markets, highways, places of worship and presbyteries have all been turned into kidnapping and killing fields. Innocent citizens are butchered with savagery and brazen impunity by criminals who lack the sense of the sanctity of human life.”
The CBCN suggested that the way of the quagmire is through good governance that aims at the common good. “Good governance generates peace which is the bedrock of development. It takes root when people’s dignity and rights are respected, when there is the mile of law, when citizens are not excluded from political participation, when there is equitable distribution of national resources and people are free from hunger, poverty and unemployment.
“It is belabouring the obvious to observe that lack of good governance results in extreme poverty, unemployment, hardship, crime and violent conflicts. In these difficult times, we cannot but stress that the first responsibility any government owes its citizens is the security of their lives and property. Nigerians have the right to live in a secure and safe country. This is basic; every other thing flows from it.
“After the heavy annual budgets on security and after repeated assurances by government that it is on top of the matter, our country is still plagued by insecurity. This is a shame. Government must wake up to its responsibilities. Given that government seems overwhelmed in securing us, dioceses have been asked to take adequate measures to beef up security in parishes, presbytertes and other Church institutions.”
The CBCN also claimed that the rising insecurity and worsening economic situation in the country have resulted in migration and brain drain, stressing that professionals and skilled labourers are leaving Nigeria in thousands annually in search of safety and security, job opportunities and better standard of living abroad, especially in Europe, United States and other African countries.
“Undoubtedly, regular remittances from these migrants help to alleviate poverty among households left behind and impact positively on our national economy as a major source of inflow of foreign earning. Be that as it may, professionals and skilled labourers, who would have helped in national development, are lost to the country. This is only one side of the story.
“The other side of the story, which is more of a national disgrace is that thousands of young men and women, who in search of greener pastures, embark on perilous journey to Europe across the Sahara desert, and along the way, some die and are buried in unmarked graves. Others are trafficked for slave labour, sexual exploitation and organ harvesting. Many get drown as they try to crossover the Mediterranean Sea with rickety and risky boats. Those who are lucky to make it to their final destinations end up in camps for asylum seekers, where they are at times subjected to sub-human conditions.
“Despite the collaborative efforts of the Police, Customs, Immigration, Network Against Child Trafficking Abuse and Labour (NACTAL) and National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) to tackle human trafficking in Nigeria, traffickers are having field day.
“This despicable modern day slavery is booming because it has become a lucrative business and also as a result of the high level of corruption underpinning it. Out of desperation to escape from extreme poverty and support their poor families financially, some young girls, with the support of their parents, volunteer themselves to be trafficked for prostitution, without being aware of the level of exploitation and dehumanisation awaiting them.”
The Catholic Bishops, thus called on dioceses, parishes and Church organisations across the country to help raise awareness on the matter. “One of the most effective ways of stemming migration, brain drain and human trafficking is through good governance. If people are assured of security and safety, good job opportunities and better living conditions in their homeland, they would not be tempted to leave their countries.”
The CBCN congratulated His Eminence, Cardinal Peter Okpaleke, Bishop of Ekwulobia Diocese, for his recent creation as a Cardinal, and two newly ordained Bishops, Most Rev. Isaac Dugu, the Bishop of Kastina-Ala; and Most Rev. John Bakeni, the Auxiliary Bishop of Maduguri, who attended CBCN Conference for the first time.
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