The Catholic Bishops of Ibadan Ecclesiastical Province have condemned what they termed selective administration of justice by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government, saying this development has greatly affected the country’s image in the international community.
They also decried the socio-politico-economic situation of the country, saying Nigeria has lost its soul in the sense that it is no longer a healthy entity, thus, necessitating the need for recovery.
The clerics, who said, “the good health of any nation consists in its capacity to offer its citizens a territory, where they can feel at home, feel secure and enjoy the basic necessities of life,” lamented that such was no longer the situation in Nigeria.
The bishops, in a communiqué issued yesterday at the end of their meeting, which was held at the Domus Pacis Pastoral Institute, Igoba, Akure, the Ondo State capital, from July 19 and 20, expressed sadness that the order of the day in Nigeria was “armed conflicts, armed robbery, kidnapping for ransom, insurgency, banditry, and extrajudicial killings.”
The bishops noted that the current waves of insecurity in the country are an indication that the government has failed to address the criminal elements wreaking havoc but rather dissipating energy on silencing lawful citizens.
The communiqué, which was made available to newsmen in Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State capital by the Catholic Bishop of Ekiti, Most Rev Felix Ajakaye, was signed by the province chairman, Most Rev Gabriel Abegunrin, and the secretary, Most Rev Akin Oyejola, where they expressed sympathy for citizens “who bear the brunt of Nigeria’s debilitating situation because of economic depression and hunger, armed robbery, banditry, kidnapping for ransom, unemployment and injustice.”
The bishops lamented that the nation under the present administration has lost its soul and that the insecurity pervading the land, dwindling economy, and others are all indices of a failed country needing an urgent revival.
They berated the Presidency for attacking the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Matthew Kukah, for his revelations to the United States Congress on the state of things in the country, insisting that Kukah made patriotic and commendable points with verifiable data on the unlawful persecution of Nigerians.
The communiqué reads: “Nigeria, our country, seems to have lost its very soul because it is no longer a healthy entity. The good health of any nation consists in its capacity to offer its citizens a territory where they can feel at home, feel secure and enjoy the basic necessities of life.
“This, unfortunately, is no longer the case in our dear country, Nigeria, where armed conflicts, armed robbery, kidnapping for ransom, insurgency, banditry, and extrajudicial killings have become the order of the day. When a nation loses its soul, its people lose the cohesive elements of human relationships. A nation that has lost its soul is characterised by inept and uncaring leadership, which functions by selective allocation of posts, privileges, and resources and by selective application of justice. It is characterised by leaders who, rather than care for the citizens of the country, simply exploit and denigrate them.”
On the Presidency’s response to Bishop Kukah, the bishops said: “Bishop Kukah, in his patriotic and frank presentation, called attention to some verifiable data and statistics about the Nigerian situation on that privileged international platform. He spoke for authentic Christians and Muslims who are under persecution. No doubt, he intended to solicit the support of that forum which many Nigerians believe holds the promise of some assistance and relief from our current national crises.
“The Federal Government, however, has characteristically gone up in arms against the person of Bishop Kukah and his purpose. It is commonly said that when there is a problem in a democracy, more democracy is needed to solve it. Sadly enough, our current Federal Government does not seem to subscribe to this.”
Reiterating the right of freedom of expression as stipulated in the constitution, the bishops said for the sake of the nation’s democracy, the right must be protected while the attempt by the National Assembly to amend the press council bill is aimed at gagging the media and the citizens should reject it.
“We declare again, as we have done often in the past, that only the truth can set us free. Nigeria must not allow this to happen! The attempt of the Nigerian National Assembly to silence the press and penalize journalists for merely doing their job is to be completely rejected. We hold that the freedom of expression is a fundamental human right, guaranteed by the Constitution, and cannot be alienated by any government, least of all in a democracy.
“For the sake of our democracy, that right, exercised with responsibility, must be protected. We support Bishop Kukah in his effort to unveil the truth about the Nigerian situation in order to ameliorate things. We call on the Nigerian government to learn not to see criticism as an attack or a crime,” they said.
The clerics expressed displeasure at the lawmakers for prioritising the interest of their political parties above the interest of Nigerians on the passage of the amended Electoral Act and the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), urging the citizens to challenge the decisions of the National Assembly with all available means.
The Bishops said: “With the National Assembly at various occasions prioritising party and privileges over people’s rights and interest, relief and progress continue to elude Nigerians. Simply put, those who claim to represent the people seem to have perfected the art of sabotaging the progress of their same people.
“Indeed, the time may have come for Nigerians to no longer simply roll over and accept non-representative decisions of the assembly but to challenge them by all legitimate means.”