By Johnbosco Agbakwuru ABUJA – CATHOLIC Bishops of Nigeria Thursday in Abuja told President Muhammadu Buhari that the country appeared to be under siege which required proactive measure, as hunger, hopelessness and deprivation have been the order of the day.
R; President Muhammadu Buhari in a handshake with Former Archbishop of Ibadan, Felix Alaba Job. Others are Catholic Archbishop of Jos, Dr. Ignatus Kaigama, Archbishop of Lagos, Alfred Adewale Martins, Archbishop of Ibadan, Gabriel Leke Abegunrin and Bishop of Umuahia, Lucius Ugorji after a meeting with a delegation of Catholic Bishops held at the Council Chambers State House in Abuja. The Bishops under the umbrella of Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria, CBCN, also told the President that he came into power under the goodwill of Nigerians but that the goodwill had been eroded as a result of the failure of government to tackle the myriads of problems facing the nation.
The Catholic Bishops stated this when they paid a courtesy visit on President Buhari at the Council Chamber, Presidential Villa, Abuja. The CBCN in the address delivered by its President, Most Rev. Dr. Ignatius Ayau Kaigama who is the Archbishop of Jos, also told the President that the heightening clamour for restructuring of the country, agitation for session among other things was as a result of disregard for the principal of federal character by the government. They further advised that elected political office holders should concentrate more on how to solve the problems before the country and not to saddle themselves with re-election programmes, even as they told the President to use his affinity with the herdsmen to tackle the menace of rampaging herdsmen that have massacred many innocent Nigerians.
The Bishops in the address which was co-signed by Most Rev. Dr. William Avenya, Bishop of Gboko Diocese of Benue State and Secretary of CBCN, said that the silence of the Federal Government on the attacks by herdsmen was shocking. The address read thus: “We, the representatives of the Catholic Bishops of Nigeria, bring you our cordial greetings and blessings. We desired this meeting, in order to continue the dialogue we initiated with you even before your election as President. We therefore thank you for granting us this audience, which affords us the opportunity to share with you, once again, our thoughts and concerns on some issues affecting our dear country, Nigeria “First, we thank God for bringing you back to us after a period of ill health. We hope and pray that you continue to make progress on the way to full recovery, in order to be able to face the enormous challenges emanating from your exalted office “Your Excellency, needless to say that, as President, you are the Father of our dear country Nigeria. It is therefore pertinent that as loyal citizens as well as informed members of the society we come to you from time to time to express not only our willing cooperation with the government in working for the progress of our country, but also to share with you the feelings of the multitude of Nigerians at this moment. We work with the people at the grassroots and therefore, have first-hand information about what they are going through. Goodwill of Nigerians depleted by government failure “There is no doubt that when you came into office, you had an enormous amount of the goodwill of Nigerians, since many saw you are a person of integrity who would be able to bring sanity into a system that was nearly crippled by endemic corruption. Nearly three years later, however one has the feeling that this good will is being fast depleted by some glaring failures of government which we have the moral responsibility to bring to your notice, else we would be failing in our duty as spiritual fathers and leaders.” Expressing their concerns, the Bishops said, “ Your Excellency, there is too much suffering in the country: poverty, hunger, insecurity, violence, fear… the list is endless. Our beloved country appears to be under siege. Many negative forces seem to be keeping a stranglehold on the population, especially the weaker and defenceless ones.
“There is a feeling of hopelessness across the country. Our youths are restive and many of them have taken to hard drugs, cultism and other forms of violent crime, while many have become victims of human trafficking. The Nation is nervous. “Just as we seem to be gradually emerging from the dark tunnel of an economic recession that caused untold hardship to families and individuals, violent attacks by unscrupulous persons, among whom are terrorists masquerading as herdsmen, have led to a near civil war situation in many parts of the country. “We are saddened that, repeatedly, innocent citizens in different communities across the nation are brutally attacked and their sources of livelihood mindlessly destroyed. Lives are wasted and property, worth billions of Naira, including places of worship, schools, hospitals and business enterprises are torched and turned to ashes. Silence of FG in the wake of terrorists attacks shocking “We are still more saddened by the recent massacre of unarmed citizens by these terrorists in some communities n Benue, Adamawa, Kaduna and Taraba States which has caused national shock, grief and outcry. The silence of the federal government in the wake of these horrifying attacks is, to say the least, shocking. There is a feeling of helplessness among the people and the danger that some people may begin to take laws into their hands. “We therefore earnestly urge the government to take very seriously its primary responsibility of protecting the lives and property of its citizens and ensure that such mindless killings do not reoccur. Herdsmen may be under pressure to save their livestock and economy but this is never to be done at the expense of other people’s lives and means of livelihood. “We would like to add our voice to those of other well-meaning Nigerians who insist that a better alternative to open grazing should be sought rather than introducing “cattle colonies” in the country. While thinking of how best to help cattle owners establish ranches, government should equally have plans to help the other farmers whose produce is essential for our survival as a nation “In a similar vein, daredevil kidnappers, who at present are having a field day, with a feeling of invincibility, must be made to understand that there is a government in this country. Government should invest more in equipping our Police Force with modern high-tech devices that will help them track down and arrest these criminals and make them face the wrath of the law.