Your Excellency, Preamble 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 healthier and stronger 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.
There is no doubt that when you came into office, you had an
enormous amount of the goodwill of Nigerians, since many saw
you as 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 duty to bring to your notice, else we
would be failing in our duty as spiritual fathers and leaders. Our
Concerns Your Excellency, there is too much suffering in the
country: poverty, hunger, joblessness, 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 defenseless 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. Property, worth billions of Naira, including places of
worship, schools, hospitals and business enterprises are torched
and turned to ashes. We are still more saddened by the recent
massacre of unarmed citizens by these terrorists in some
communities in Benue, Adamawa, Kaduna and Taraba States which
has caused national shock, grief and outcry. What is even more
distressful is that the government, whose responsibility it is to
protect the life and property of every citizen seems either
incapable or unwilling to do this. 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. The Federal
Character Principle is enshrined in the 1999 Constitution of the
Federal Republic of Nigeria: “The government of the Federation or
any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried
out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria
and the need to promote national unity and also to command
national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no
predominance of persons from a few states or from a few ethnic
or other sectional groups in that government or in any of its
agencies” (Section 14, Sub-section 3-4). Disregard for this
Principle in some federal government appointments as well as
perceptible imbalance in the distribution of federal amenities has
created the loss of a sense of belonging in many parts of the
country, hence the constant cries of marginalization, agitation for
secession and calls for restructuring. Conclusion and Assurance
of Prayers Our Church has always complemented the efforts of
government in such areas as providing quality education and
primary health care services to our people. We shall continue to
support the effort of the government in nation-building. As the
voice of the voiceless, we shall therfore continue to highlight the
plight of our people and play our prophetic role of sensitizing the
government, thus promoting national unity and cohesion. As we
encourage you to spare no effort to build a new Nigeria, we
reassure you of our support and prayers for your success. On the
long run,Government under your watch must do all in its power
through good policies to restore confidence that government is for
all and sundry. Our collective efforts must be seen in the desire to
return to the fine principles of democracy such as true federalism,
negotiation and consensus building as means of achieving a more
equitable distribution of the resources of our country. Thank you,
Your Excellency, for the audience and may God bless you. Most
Rev. Dr. Ignatius Ayau Kaigama Archbishop of Jos President,
CBCN Most Rev. Dr. William Avenya Bishop of Gboko Secretary,


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