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Monday, 19 February 2024 07:28

Hardship paralysing lives nationwide — Catholic Bishops, CAN

The Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria, CBCN, and the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, yesterday, dissected the state of the nation and returned a grim verdict: hardship is paralysing socioeconomic lives in communities and hunger causing a serious humanitarian crisis. Besides, the Catholic Bishops lamented that Nigeria was in her worst times in terms of insecurity, economy, and corruption, and called for sincere, accountable, and collective effort to halt the current slide and steer her towards a more secure and prosperous future.

 

The Catholic Bishops and CAN spoke as the Federal Government, through Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Senator George Akume, acknowledged the problems and restated its determination to tackle security and economic challenges, with a view to improving the quality of life for all Nigerians. The trio spoke at the opening session of the 2024 First Plenary Assembly of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria in Abuja yesterday.

 

Specifically, the CBCN President, Archbishop Lucius Ugorji, issued a stark assessment of the current situation in the country, describing it as the ‘ worst of times,’ particularly with regard to security and the economy, and described the state of affairs in the nation as tumultuous. The Archbishop drew attention to the stark realities facing Nigerians, emphasizing the persistent insecurity and economic turmoil, despite substantial security votes. “If we cast a cursory glance at the present state of our nation, we are inclined to conclude that this seems to be the worst of times for our country in the areas of security and the economy,” he said.

According to him, kidnappings for ransom, senseless killings, and the rise of banditry have left communities across Nigeria in the grip of fear and paralysis.

Unceasing killing of citizens

“Unarmed citizens are brutally slaughtered on our highways, in their homes and even in the sacred precincts of places of worship. Killer herdsmen, bandits and unknown gunmen seem to be on rampage. ‘’Many communities across the nation have been taken over completely by criminals. Families have lost their ancestral lands to armed invaders and land-grabbers,” the Archbishop lamented.

He emphasized the severity of the situation where citizens were brutally attacked in what should be sanctuaries of peace.

Faulty reform agenda

In the same vein, the Archbishop criticized the government’s reform agenda, which has led to the withdrawal of fuel subsidies and a steep decline in naira’s value. His words: “The reform agenda of the present government has added to the plight of Nigerians. With the withdrawal of fuel subsidies and the unification of the foreign exchange market, there has been a sharp increase in the pump price of petroleum products and a steep decline in the value of the naira. “Indeed, there is a free fall of the national currency. High, spiralling inflation has made it difficult for the average Nigerian to access basic commodities, including food items and medication.

Naira’s free fall, grinding poverty

“As a result of the government’s reform agenda, millions of Nigerians have been reduced to a life of grinding poverty, wanton suffering, and untold hardship as never before in our national history. In a bid to survive, an increasing number of the poor have resorted to begging.”

Govt’s lavish spending

The CBCN President also touched upon the government’s lavish spending amid a population crippled by poverty, saying “as the government demands additional sacrifice from the struggling masses, one would expect to see a drastic cut in the cost of running the government at all levels. “On the contrary, it is worrisome to watch top government functionaries living by the sweat, toil and tears of the poor. They continue spending huge public funds on ostentatious and luxurious lifestyles and seem incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor. “It is no less worrisome to note that corruption among many public servants has gone beyond scale and measure corruption.

Worsening corruption

“Corruption is a complex reality involving moral rottenness, defilement and loss of integrity. In Nigeria, it spans a wide spectrum, ranging from book- cooking, foreign exchange (FX) arbitrage, over-pricing, and over- invoicing to embezzlement, money laundering, forgery, and all sorts of manipulation.” Condemning the rampant corruption and mismanagement of resources, the Archbishop underscored the plight of Nigerian youth, many of whom are unemployed and resort to drugs, alcohol, or emigration in desperation. Archbishop Ugorji, who called attention to the longterm consequences of such a loss of human capital, said further: “The situation is worsened by the high unemployment rate in the country. Many of our youths are deeply wounded and degraded by unemployment and poverty, which make them feel rejected by the very society into which they were born. “Consequently, thousands of them seek relief from drugs and alcohol and eventually end up in violent crimes. In search of greener pastures, many others try to migrate to foreign lands where hard times often await them.

“Regrettably, an extensive brain drain continues in this way in our nation, where manpower is needed to revamp the ailing economy and foster national development. In the midst of the frenzy to Japa abroad for better job opportunities, many young Nigerians fall easy prey to human traffickers, who traffic them abroad for sexual exploitation, cheap labour or organ harvesting.” The Catholic Bishops were equally critical of government’s efforts to address these issues, calling the reform agenda ‘counterproductive’ and a ‘therapy worse than the disease.’

Where’re savings from fuel subsidy removal?

The CBCN challenged the government’s claims of savings from fuel subsidy removal, questioning the lack of operational refineries which leads to continued reliance on fuel importation. It said: “In withdrawing the fuel subsidy, the government assured Nigerians it would save a lot of money to be injected into other national development sectors.

Accumulation of foreign debt

“Rather than give evidence of money so far saved from the withdrawal of subsidies for which Nigerians are being afflicted with untold hardship, all we hear is the government’s accumulation of more and more foreign debt to balance its budgetary deficit, thereby mortgaging the future of our nation and generations yet unborn.

“This has led many Nigerians to conclude that all the extensive talks on fuel subsidies may be mere fairy tales. “Nigeria owns four refineries, two in Port Harcourt, one in Warri and one in Kaduna. How can we explain that these four refineries have remained moribund for years, despite turn-around-maintenance efforts, which have continued to gulp huge sums of money?” On the security front, the CBCN President described the government’s efforts as ‘woefully failing’ and urged for more proactive measures to protect citizens. “Without security, there can be no development,” Archbishop Ugorji asserted, pointing out the vital link between employment opportunities for youth and national security. According to the Bishops, corruption, too, remains a pressing concern but called for a more effective prosecution of corrupt officials to prevent the continued looting of public coffers.

The Catholic Bishops further touched on the controversy surrounding the recent Vatican document “Fiducia Supplicans,” which has stirred debate among the faithful. While the document prohibits blessings for samesex unions, it also encourages pastoral care for those in ‘irregular situations.’ The Bishops called for sincerity, accountability, and a collective effort to steer Nigeria away from its current trajectory towards a more secure and prosperous future.

CAN backs Catholic Bishops

In a show of ecumenical support and solidarity, the President of CAN, His Eminence Archbishop Daniel Okoh, commended Archbishop Ugorji for his unwavering commitment to addressing issues such as bad governance, insecurity, injustice, and economic hardship. Okoh said Ugorji’s “consistency in providing insight and guidance on issues that border on bad governance, insecurity (including food insecurity), injustice and extreme economic conditions is an inspiration to us all.”

Referencing the unique theme of the plenary, ‘’Synod on Synodality,’ Archbishop Okoh expressed intrigue and support for the Catholic Church’s efforts to foster inclusivity and dialogue. “Such conversations may bring challenges, but they are essential for unity and impactful evangelism,” he added, affirming his prayers for the Holy Spirit’s guidance during the plenary. Archbishop Okoh also acknowledged the daunting challenges faced by churches in Nigeria, from constant attacks on clergy to the struggle for the right to worship places. “As members of the Nigerian Christian community, we acknowledge the multi-faceted challenges faced by our churches on a daily basis. “From a deliberate attempt to edge out Christianity in certain parts of the country through denial of Right of Occupancy for churches that want to erect their worship places to targeted serial attacks, arson and kidnapping of clergymen for ransom that has now become a daily occurrence. The high level of insecurity, runaway inflation and hunger are areas of serious concern as well.”

[Vanguard]

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