Catholic Bishops Decry Increasing Insecurity In S’East

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…say government should take responsibility   

The Catholic Bishops of Onitsha Ecclesiastical Province have decried the increasing level of insecurity in the South East, a development said to have heightened fears and restiveness among the people especially the youths.

The Bishops comprising the Archdiocese of Onitsha, the Dioceses of Enugu, Abakaliki, Awka, Nsukka, Nnewi, Awgu and Ekwulobia, stated this in a pastoral message issued at the end of its Second Plenary Meeting held on Tuesday July 28, 2020, in Awka, Anambra state, titled: “be courageous, I have conquered the world”.

In the pastoral message read on Sunday in all the Catholic Parishes under the Onitsha Province, which our correspondent monitored, was signed by Most Rev. Valerian Okeke, Archbishop of Onitsha and Most Rev. Hilary Okeke, Bishop of Nnewi, Chairman and secretary respectively.

While the clerics lamented that the COVID-19 pandemic has heightened the level of insecurity in the region and in other parts of the country, they charged the government at all levels and local leaders to take responsibility for safeguarding the life and property of their subjects.

“It appears that some persons with criminal intention used the period of the lockdown to stealthily move into the more remote parts of our Province. Gun-carrying herders and other bandits are occupying many farmlands and forests, destroying crops, raping women, killing and kidnapping many persons. This has increased the level of fear and restiveness among the people, especially the youths. Food production has already been greatly compromised in our area during this planting season.”

While they feared that the consequences of this would be grave in a matter of months, the Bishops enjoined governments at all levels as well as the local leaders to do all they could to protect the life and property of ordinary law-abiding citizens.

They noted that the project of the “Forest Guards” embarked upon by some state governments in the southeast is a step in the right direction, adding that “a situation where the people are left to defend themselves will lead to a total breakdown of law and order.”

On corruption, the bishops said that the anti-corruption fight by successive governments have been only cosmetic, regretting that corruption seems to have become part of our national culture.

They said: “What is currently happening in the highest anti-corruption agency in the country as well as in other high-profile federal agencies is to say the least, an embarrassment. To sincerely fight corruption, there is the need to re-educate the entire citizenry. We expect the government to support the effort of the church in offering integral education to young Nigerians.

“This education must include the proper use of and relationship with the social media and the other aspects of modern information and communications technology (ICT). Our young people (as well as the older citizens) must be educated not to be victims or agents of manipulative media. There are many resources online in cyberspace and people learn a lot through social media.

“Nevertheless, fake news and hate speech have become disturbing trends that can spread errors, mobilize fears, prejudice and bias, and enthrone corruption, ethnicism and violence. Effort must be made, through integral, value-based education, to reverse the trend.”

On the Covid-19 pandemic, the clerics expressed sadness that despite the lockdown measures to contain the spread of the novel virus, yet the virus is spreading like wildfire.   

“At the beginning, we thought that with the strict measures we adopted as Church, following the protocol of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), it would be only a question of weeks and life would return to normal.

“…We therefore, hereby make a passionate appeal to all to take seriously the directives given by those competent in the field of public health, in order to stem the rising tide of the spread of the virus.

“We note with sadness the failure of the lockdown strategy in containing the spread of the virus, because of corruption. Some of those who were mandated to enforce the lockdown used it as an opportunity for extorting money from those who continued to move across the states and caused untold hardship to those who had genuine need to be on the road.

“Now that the lockdown is being eased, in spite of the rising number of those infected, individuals have to take the responsibility for their health and that of others. Responsibility and care are needed even more as the reopening of schools is being contemplated,” the clerics advised.

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