Posted on: 2013-05-18

Statement of the Catholic Bishops\' Conference of Nigeria, issued at the end of the Retreat to mark the Year of Faith(May 11-17, 2013, at the Daughters of Divine Love Retreat and Conference Centre, Abuja

We, Catholic Bishops of Nigeria have spent this last week in prayer to mark the Year of Faith. During this period, we have reflected and prayed for the Church in Nigeria and our dear country. We are confident that prayer remains an indispensable means for restoring our country to normalcy.

For the last two years, we have witnessed an unprecedented escalation of violence and criminality across the country. We must admit that apart from the tragic civil war, our nation has never known so much wanton destruction of lives, properties and institutions.

What started as a mere clash between law enforcement agencies and members of the Islamic sect commonly labeled as Boko Haram, has since spiraled into what can, at best, be described as a low-intensity war especially in some northern states of the country. Taken together with a range of other crises in other parts of the country such as armed robbery, kidnapping, communal clashes, our country now almost totters on the brink.

The magnitude of the crisis has been staggering and overwhelming. Families have been wiped out, communities displaced and now refugees and internally displaced persons roam the Nigerian landscape. Every day, we hear more and more ugly stories of death and destruction in the land. Sadly, the entire apparatus of state security seem totally overwhelmed by the agents of darkness. What, we must ask, is the way out and how will it all end? We make the following observations.

1. We need to re-affirm our commitment to building a democratic country. We commend Nigerians for their steadfastness, and their long suffering trust and belief in the power of prayer. However, while we encourage our people to remain committed to the principles of democracy, we appeal to all our politicians to place the survival of our country before partisan political interests and consideration.

We appreciate the sacrifices that members of the security agencies and the armed forces have continued to make as they constantly face danger in the course of their duty. We pray for the repose of the souls of those gallant men and women who have died in service of the nation. We appeal to the federal government to accord their families all the necessary support that befits the sacrifice. We urge them to remain patriotic and loyal to Constitutional government to protect our hard earned democracy.

2. It is clear that what our country is witnessing is the cumulative effect and the corrosive impact of corruption. It is evident that unless our political leaders summon the courage to use the relevant institutions of State to confront this monster, it will devour our entire nation.

We welcome the President\'s efforts in seeking to bring our challenges under control. We believe that given the serious nature of the crises, the President must use all available resources and opportunities required to resolve the tensions in various parts of the country. In the spirit of bipartisanship, we urge that the President mobilise the leadership of the political class especially the members of the dominant ruling Party to resolve the lingering crises in the country. At moments of national crises such as what we face now, patriotism and national interests should prevail over narrow partisan and selfish interests. Against this background, we urge the President to find the best way to end the crises over the leadership of the Governors\' Forum and the power tussle in Rivers State.

3. It would seem clear to us all, that these crises are the direct result of the forthcoming elections of 2015. We must note that first, there has to be a nation before we can conduct elections. Democracy ought to offer a level playing field in which every citizen should feel free to aspire to any office in the land. We therefore hold the members of the political class, squarely responsible for ensuring the stability of our dear nation. While we subscribe to the freedom of speech as a democratic right guaranteed in our Constitution, we condemn in strong terms, the provocative, incendiary, unguarded and partisan utterances that threaten our national corporate existence. The relevant government agencies should not shy away from prosecuting these elements when they breach the laws of the land or threaten national security and peace.

4. We note various initiatives to resolve the Boko Haram issues such as the setting up of the Amnesty Committee. In particular, we further note the declaration of the State of emergency in some states of the country. However, we insist that genuine amnesty should mean offering pardon to repentant militants and not appeasing criminals and their sponsors to stay calm. We pray and hope that the declaration of the state of emergency in some states of the country will achieve the desired objectives. We encourage the government to energise our justice system such that adequate and speedy punishments for crime serve as a deterrent to impunity. We call on the federal government to continue to explore the most effective means of dialogue with a view to restoring our country to normalcy.

5. Finally, as religious leaders, we again call our people and leaders to genuine repentance as we continue to pray in earnest for our country. We believe that with the right resolve, we can put these crises behind us and strive forward to build a strong, just and prosperous society. Let us hearken to the words of St Paul: These hopes do not disappoint us for the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given to us (Romans 5:5). May the Holy Spirit whom we celebrate at this period in the Church inspire us all to live and work for a just and peaceful nation to the glory of God and the benefit of all our people. Amen

Most Reverend Ignatius Ayau Kaigama Most Reverend William Avenya
President, CBCN Secretary, CBCN