Catholic Bishops of Owerri Ecclesiastical Province have called for total vigilance from the citizenry, in the face of growing insecurity in Nigeria.
The clerics made the call in a communiqué they issued after their second plenary meeting held at the Bishop House, Okigwe.
The communiqué, which was signed by the Chairman and Secretary, Archbishop Anthony J.V. Obinna, and Most Rev. Augustine T. Ukwuoma, centred on several national issues, including security, education and the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Bearing in mind that no economic or educational endeavour can thrive in a volatile and unsafe environment, the security and safety of the nation at large and Igboland in particular, deserve special attention,” the clerics said
They stressed that recent and frequent cases of displacement and unlawful occupation of farmlands of indigenes by marauding herdsmen call for concern.
From January to July 2020, at least 178 persons were killed in local government areas of Southern Kaduna, data from Civic Media Lab’s life count and media report of killings gathered by SaharaReporters show.
Gunmen of Fulani ethnicity reportedly perpetrated most of the attacks.
“Kidnapping, banditry, armed robbery, incessant killings, which have continued unabated, cast serious doubts on the willingness and capability of our security outfits to rise to their constitutional responsibilities,” the Catholic Bishops said.
They called on the governors of Imo and the Abia States, “to protect the lives of our people, their homes and their lands”.
The clerics urged the people to “rise in prayer to God in vigilance and legitimate self-defence, for the right to life, to our homes and our lands, is God-given”.
Addressing the issues related to the coronavirus, the bishops said nothing in recent memory had shaken the world like the pandemic.
“Amidst the unprecedented panic, tension and confusion provoked by the Covid-19 pandemic, and in the face of the resurgent insecurity in our land and across the nation, we have every reason to thank God, who has kept us alive by his mercy,” the bishops said.
The bishops reaffirmed that COVID-19 is real, noting that the governments, on their part, should rise to their responsibility of ensuring adequate provisions of basic amenities like running water.
They said, “Particular attention should be paid to improving our poor healthcare facilities, making provision for more testing centres with affordable services and enough personal protective equipment, for our healthcare workers.”
On the effect of the pandemic on education, the Bishops added, “The pandemic has also impacted negatively on our educational system. Our schools at all levels have been closed for months. With everybody at home, there has been an increase in domestic violence, abuses and all sorts of crimes.
“The inadequacy of our educational system and formation have been laid bare. Some climes have tried to bridge the gap through online education. Unfortunately, we lack the necessary infrastructure to key in, except in a handful of places and schools.
“This is a challenge for all stakeholders in education. The billions of naira embezzled regularly could be gainfully used in meeting these challenges.”