A COMMUNIQUE ISSUED BY THE CATHOLIC BISHOPS OF IBADAN ECCLESIASTICAL PROVINCE AFTER THEIR MEETING HELD AT THE JUBILEE CONFERENCE CENTRE, OKE ADO, IBADAN FROM 3RD-TO 4TH FEBRUARY, 2020.
We, the Catholic Bishops of Ibadan Ecclesiastical Province, comprising Ibadan Archdiocese, Ilorin, Ondo, Ekiti, Oyo and Osogbo Dioceses, have met at the Jubilee Conference Centre Oke Ado, Ibadan from 3rd to 4th February, 2020. After prayerful deliberations on matters of importance to our Church in Ibadan Province and Nigeria, we now prayerfully issue the following Communique:
1. New Year, New Hope
The new year 2020 gives all Nigerians another opportunity to echo the now familiar saying that God is good to his people all the time. We acknowledge that even when we as human beings fail in our duties and commitments God remains steadfast and merciful. The life and graces we enjoy at this moment are all evidence that if we do our best to follow his ways and play our part in building his kingdom of peace and justice, our hopes for a better world can still be fulfilled. His kingdom beckons us now to build a better world for the good of all.
2. Worsening Situation of Security of Life and Property
Human life seems to have lost value in Nigeria. At the beginning of last year, we cried out like all Nigerians did against the woeful security situation at that time. We issued a message of hope calling on all Nigerians to work together with the government and security agencies to secure the life and property of all without discrimination. Today, a year later, things have become much worse. Nigeria is in security dire-straits. Only few Nigerians in any part of the country can sleep with two eyes closed. We lament that Nigerians are being slaughtered daily by terrorists, criminals and so-called herdsmen on the roads, in their farms and even in their homes. With the security architecture in Nigeria seemingly on auto-pilot, the country is clearly drifting and needs decisive action to restore professionalism and effectiveness. As Bishops, we strongly believe in prayer and in the power of God to save, but we must challenge all those in position of authority that they simply must wake up and do more than pay mere lip service to the issue of security in our country, Nigeria.
3. The Amotekun Initiative
The Church stands for the sanctity of life. It is a constitutional fact that the primary duty of government is the protection of lives and property. In this regard, we commend the action of the Governors of the Southwestern Region who acted across party and religious lines to set up the South Western Security Network (SWSN), tagged: Amotekun. With this initiative, they have responded to their duty as Chief Security Officers of their States to secure lives and property of all in the Southwestern Region of Nigeria. The security of lives is not exclusive to any organization. So, we urge the Federal Government to support and regulate Amotekun and other such organs in Nigeria as necessary complements to the efforts of the police and other security agencies. The Amotekun outfit is a metaphor for the utmost need for leaders to cater for the welfare of all those who are placed under their care, irrespective of tribe or religion. If well-regulated and groomed, it will surely bring the much-needed improvement to peace and public order in the Southwest of Nigeria.
4. Recent Mindless Murders in Nigeria
A new peak in Nigeria’s sad situation was the beheading of Rev. Lawan Andimi, Chairman, Christian Association of Nigeria, (CAN), Michika Local Government Area in Adamawa State and the killing of a major seminarian, Michael Nnadi. We commiserate with the Bishop, Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, Most Rev Matthew Hassan Kukah and the Christian Association of Nigeria, (CAN) on these sad occurrences. May their gentle souls and the souls of all those who have been killed in similar circumstances, rest in perfect peace. We condole with and pray for all bereaved families and we urge the relevant authorities to wake up to their responsibilities and bring the perpetrators of this and other such dastardly acts to justice.
5. Low Standards for Truth and Falsehood
We are sad to note that more and more, propaganda seems to interfere with policy and concrete action in Nigeria. The fiercely defensive reaction of government officials and spokesmen to even constructive and positive criticisms, often gives the impression that we cherish only positive comments about the government of the day. This is not a healthy sign! Notably, authentic democracy derives its strength from the quality and diversity of the criticisms which it accommodates. We cannot afford to tag every criticism as a negative attack on the government of the day because no country can survive under such paranoia.
6. Sustaining the formation and empowerment of our Youths
Nigerian youths constitute a large part of the country’s wealth and potential. However, we can expect to reap dividends from their talent and future if only we invest in them today. We therefore enjoin the government at all levels, relevant authorities and all stakeholders to invest more resources in the education sector where the youths are formed and empowered for the future. Without redressing the damage already done in this sector, much of the effort being made today to sanitise society will be a waste. We commend those who provide employment opportunities for our teeming population not to relent and we call on well-meaning people to create more employment opportunities for the unemployed among us.
We challenge families and guardians, religious leaders, teachers, formators and political leaders to address the issue of immorality among the youths. Some of this is provoked by some unscrupulous entertainers and artistes who are indiscriminately celebrated by the media. The upbringing and formation of the youths must be taken as the responsibility of all in the society.
7. Congratulations to Osogbo Diocese at 25
We congratulate Most Rev. Gabriel Leke Abegunrin, first Bishop of Osogbo Diocese on his Silver Jubilee as Bishop, Bishop John Akinkunmi Oyejola, the current Bishop of the Diocese, the Clergy, Religious and Lay Faithful of the Catholic Diocese of Osogbo on the Silver Jubilee of the Diocese’s inauguration. Since its establishment in 1995 Osogbo Diocese has grown in leaps and bounds, pastorally, structurally and in spiritual and material graces. May the ongoing celebration which was planned to last for a year and will conclude on 13th May, 2020, bring more development and progress in evangelization and in the mission of the Church within that Ecclesiastical jurisdiction.
8. Celebration of the Sunday of the Word of God
We thank God for the inspiration and leadership of Pope Francis who has established the annual celebration, henceforth, of the Third Sunday of Ordinary Time in the Liturgical Year as the Sunday of the Word of God. The purpose of the celebration, well explained in his apostolic letter: “Aperuit Illis”, (He opened their minds), is to help the faithful rediscover devotion to the study, appropriation and dissemination of the word of God. It is also a call to celebrate ecumenical life and unity in the Church. The occasion was marked with great solemnity for the first time on January 26, 2020, in the Church all over the world. We therefore call on the Clergy, Religious and all Christians to make the word of God the foundation of their unity and life at all times.
As we conclude this Communique, we invoke the mercy of God upon our Church and our country, Nigeria, that he may guide us by his mighty hand and Holy Spirit. May he grant divine wisdom to all our leaders that they may do what pleases him and lead God’s people aright. That way God’s favour, already granted to this land flowing with milk and honey, will be more manifest and God’s people shall be filled with his good things (Ps 65:4).
Most Rev. Gabriel Abegunrin
Most Rev. John Oyejola