Catholic Bishops in the country, at the weekend, took a critical look at the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari and gave it low marks in critical sectors including economy, security and social development.
The bishops, in their communiqué after a oneweek conference in Akure, the Ondo State capital, said the people of the country are tired of the excuses being given by the administration for its failure.
They asked the government to buckle up and resolve the myriads of problems facing the country. At a press conference jointly addressed by the President of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), Ignatius Kaigama, John Cardinal Onaiyekan (Archbishop of Abuja,) Augustine Akubueze (Vice President), Godfrey Onah (Nsukka) and Raph Madu (the secretary), the Bishops decried the inability of the Buhari administration to tackle various challenges facing the country.
According to the Catholic bishops, the people of the country are tired of the excuses that the past administration of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan caused the economic crisis the country was facing and should proffer solutions to the problems in the country.
Kaigama, who spoke on behalf of others, said: “I visit my people and they are in millions, I know what they say; they are hungry. The costs of things in the market are so high and they cannot afford it. People are sick, they take them to hospital, they cannot pay the bill and they die. Things are not well, there is hunger in the land, and there is criminality.
“The people in government have the responsibility to take care of the citizens and if anything is going wrong, they have no excuse. They should not be looking for excuses; they should not be telling us about the price of oil, Niger Delta militants. Those are the problems they ought to face.”
The bishop, who regretted that the present administration is playing politics instead of facing governance, said: “Nigeria is in a state of emergency and this is not time for politicking, discrimination and dividing the nation. We advise the government to bring Nigerians together to face our common emergency and avoid discrimination, polarisation, politicisation of sensitive and important service position in the country so that anybody that has positive thing to contribute will be brought on board. The time for political campaign finished more than 15 months ago, now Nigerians want to move forward.”
The Catholic priests asked the opposition parties to take up their responsibility of putting the government on its toes and see how Nigeria can move forward instead of running the government down.
On the excuse that the past administration brought Nigeria to its present state, Bishop Onah said: “If the present administration thought that the past administration was doing very well, they would not have sought to replace them.
“If they sought to be elected into office, they knew that that government was not doing what they thought they could do.
“This is the time for them to do what they thought they could do better. They knew that the administration was not what Nigerians deserved. We are no longer interested in their judgement of that administration. The election has passed judgement on it already. We want to see the alternative way of governance.”
On the state of the nation, Kaigama regretted that the nation has gone into economic recession and proffered solutions to it.
His words: “We note the efforts of the Nigerian government towards the growth of the nation’s economy. Yet, the economy has gone into a recession. Many people have lost their jobs, and those who are fortunate to retain theirs are not adequately remunerated and some are not paid as and when due. There is hunger in the land.
“We, therefore, urge the government to take proactive and practical steps towards reversing the recession. As a result of the fall in the oil prices, it has become inevitable to, without further delay, diversify the economy, engender fiscal and monetary policies, stimulate and mobilise investments, and engage in a productive, rather than a consumerist, economy.
“We advise the Federal Government to consider devolution of powers to create a healthy economic competition in the federating units. We call on Nigerians to moderate their taste for foreign goods, reduce waste and be more prudent in expenditure.
“In the meantime, we expect the government to quickly evolve appropriate palliative measures and empower, by job creation, the teeming unemployed youths.”
On the security challenges being faced by the country, the Bishops said: “Our country is generally passing through an unfortunate phase whereby sanctity and dignity of human life is constantly undermined. People, especially women and children, are reduced to merchandise and trafficked within, across and beyond our country for sex exploitation forced servitude and organ harvesting.
“We denounce policies and practices that undermine the sanctity and dignity of human life. We also call on government to drastically reduce poverty and remove everything that condemns the less privileged to life of avoidable suffering and make them easy victims of human trafficking. We also call on government to protect the victims and bring to book the perpetrators.”
The communiqué reads in part: “We observe with dismay the growing inequality and lack of respect for basic rights in our nation. Cases of discrimination on the bases of religion, ethnic group and political affiliation still abound. This is evident in the recent government appointments and provision of social amenities.
“We enjoin governments at all levels to eschew all forms of marginalisation and give everybody a sense of belonging. We equally call on Nigerians to respect one another’s rights, including rights to life and religious freedom. We urge the government to use appropriate democratic machineries to protect citizens’ rights, reject and avoid making policies that would lead to the breach of these rights.
“For instance, curriculum reforms in the education sector should respect religious freedom, which includes right to promote one’s religious beliefs and doctrines without violation of the rights of others. We insist on the teaching of religion in all schools in such a way that no religion is disadvantaged.
“We, therefore, call on law and policy makers to adhere to the principles of state secularity, recognising the multi-religious nature of our nation.
“It is highly regrettable that our nation has continued to witness many forms of violent activities and cases of violation of human dignity. These include electoral and religious violence; mayhem caused by herdsmen, violence in the Niger Delta, extra-judicial killing, kidnapping, human trafficking, child abuse, and forced labour.
“We call on governments at all levels to devise adequate practical measures to tackle all forms of violence and assault on the human person. We condemn totally the acts of vandalism of oil installations in the Niger Delta and destruction of public property. At the same time, we enjoin the Federal Government to address the root causes, and by dialogue and other peaceful means, end the crises in the Niger Delta.
“Similarly, we urge the government and security agencies to take decisive actions against the wanton destruction of lives and property by herdsmen, which pose serious threat to the security and unity of our nation. We lend our voice to those of other Nigerians calling for safer and modern ways of rearing cattle, for instance, ranches. We totally condemn the idea of grazing reserves and wandering of cattle.”