A COMMUNIQUE ISSUED BY THE CATHOLIC BISHOPS OF IBADAN ECCLESIASTICAL PROVINCE AFTER A MEETING HELD AT THE JUBILEE CONFERENCE CENTRE, IBADAN FROM JANUARY 25-26, 2021.
We, Catholic Bishops of Ibadan Ecclesiastical Province, comprising Ibadan Archdiocese, Ilorin, Ondo, Oyo, Ekiti and Osogbo Dioceses, after our first meeting for the year 2021 at the Jubilee Conference Centre, Oke-Ado, Ibadan, from January 25-26, 2021, prayerfully issue the following communique:
- Blessed Are the Merciful
We give profuse thanks to God Almighty for making us see another year and for his goodness and mercy especially regarding the limited effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on our people and country. We applaud the faith of our people all over the country during the tough period of the lockdown. In spite of the restrictive lockdown and other measures put in place to combat the emergency, the faithful continued to engage in family prayer, spiritual works of mercy and works of charity. We note with pride the sacrifice of many religious organizations, church societies, civil society organizations and individuals who catered for the poor, the sick, the aged and other vulnerable people around them. May the promise of our Lord Jesus Christ who called us to be merciful so that we might obtain mercy be fulfilled in you all (Matt 5:7).
- Combating the COVID-19 Pandemic
We commend the spirited effort of the government at Federal and State levels in providing facilities and regulations for confronting the pandemic at the onset and for support and palliatives arrangements for the vulnerable segments of our population. We however regret that to date, many Nigerians still conduct themselves in a risky manner, hardly observing any of the recommendations issued for their own safety. Seeing that the pandemic remains deadly, we plead with all Nigerians to keep themselves protected by following all the laid down rules meant for their own safety. We urge the authorities and the media to sustain public education and enlightenment, provide more testing centres so as to provide the public with sufficient facility and understanding of what is at stake. We strongly recommend that the authorities not allow anyone to use the COVID-19 pandemic for selfish gains or interests. We also plead that our medical experts be allowed to subject to appropriate test, the COVID-19 vaccines coming into Nigeria in order to secure the confidence of Nigerians so that they may willingly submit to the medication. It would be immoral and unjust to compel anyone to take the vaccine.
- The Fulani Herdsmen, Criminality and the Rule of Law
We identify with the ongoing effort of the governors of some South Western States to regulate the activities of Fulani herdsmen within the zone and for the communique issued after their recent meeting with stakeholders. We note that insincerity, selfish interests and lack of political will had in the past, caused needless destruction of life and property and inflicted untold pain and hardship on innocent citizens. However, our Governors must shun deceptive adulations and empty promises on issues that impact the security of life and property. They must work with the security agencies to courageously implement the law in all cases and sanction those who blatantly and murderously flout it in their territories. No Nigerian or foreigner should be above the law in any part of the country.
- Current Security Concerns in Nigeria
With current realities it has become more necessary than ever to demand the review of Nigeria’s security architecture. Given the campaign promises of the present government and the cauldrons of insecurity erupting all over the country .it is unfortunate that the Federal Government has remained impervious to this call. As a consequence, we parade a Nigerian Army that has not been able to effectively check the atrocities of Boko Haram for over a decade. How does one deny the allegation that kidnapping and banditry are abetted by government when even State governments pay bandits and herdsmen as a means of placating them? How can we claim to have a Nigeria Police, when the body is no longer trusted to protect the same people it was set up to serve in many parts of the country?
It is frustrating to see Governors, constitutionally empowered as the first security officers of their States, being impeded and rendered ineffective by mitigating actions and pronouncements allegedly made on behalf of the Federal government, when they take lawful steps to respond to security needs in their States. Such manner of governance, that exerts itself to protect the interest of a segment of the population at the expense of the security of life and property of the majority, makes the emergence of militias and self-appointed messiahs inevitable. We therefore join all well-meaning Nigerians who have called on the authorities to allow alternative and lawful initiatives which are established for protecting life and property like the South Western Security Network (SWSN), codenamed Amotekun, to thrive. Such initiatives deserve to be supported and optimised as a complimentary security organization for the benefit of the people in different parts of Nigeria.
- The End-SARS Protests and the Way Forward
The protests which erupted in October, 2020 alerted the government at all levels to important issues concerning the plight of the youth and the general populace in Nigeria. We regret the wanton loss of life and property especially in the South West of Nigeria that eventually followed the infiltration of the protests. We pray for the souls of the dead, including the youths and security agents, and we sympathise with those who suffered loss of their property and pray that they get help for recovery. We plead with the Federal and State governments to fulfil, the promises made in the wake of the protests and not to ignore the reasons why the protests occurred, as normally happens in Nigeria. We appeal to religious and public organizations and citizens to kindly provide empowerment and employment for our teeming youth population so that we can thus partner with the government to reduce youth restiveness in our country.
- Failing Education System in Nigeria
Good education is the foundation of good citizenship. The character of a nation is formed by its educational system and the kind of attention which a nation gives to the education of its youth. We feel the sense of urgency in calling our nation once more to the drawing table to do all it can to save our failing education system in Nigeria. Our nation is once again witnessing another conflict between Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), other related associations and government, all of which have grounded our university system for many months. We plead for a quick resolution to the present conflict in order to resume academic activities in our Universities. The role of mission and private organizations in education should never be underestimated. Government must encourage and work with the mission and private sector to continue to develop our education system. On this note, we thank the governments of Ekiti and Ondo States for taking the bold step to return the schools that were forcefully taken over many years ago, to their original owners. We renew our call to all the states of the federation to return mission schools to their original owners and admit that the takeover of schools some years ago was a bad policy that has done us no good. Evidently, States that have already taken the bold step have many success stories to tell.
- The Imperative of Truth
Until and unless Nigeria enthrones the culture of honesty and truth, we cannot make much progress. No matter how bitter it may be truth liberates. Nigerians must reject mis-informants and commanders-in-mischief who love to manipulate the truth when it does not serve the unjust status quo. So it is, with the recent blitz against the Bishop of Sokoto, Most Reverend Matthew Kukah, who in his Christmas message, x-rayed some problems of this nation. Nigerians must discern and reject such attempts to discredit and distort genuine expressions of concern for the good of the nation whenever it is made. We stand by people like Bishop Kukah who would courageously speak up and call for genuine change irrespective of tribe, religion or calling. If we all join hands to embrace the truth wherever it is found, we save our own lives and shall much quicker arrive at our destination of a better country for all.
- The Year of St Joseph
We thank the Holy Father, Pope Francis, who declared a Year of St. Joseph to run between December 8, 2020 and December 8, 2021. Through it, the Pope calls Catholics to grow in their relationship with Joseph, the foster father of Jesus, in order to learn from him, striving also to be more like him. At this period of crises all over the world we exhort the faithful to take advantage of the year to highlight and promote the stabilising responsibilities and virtues of fatherhood, celebrating the feast of St. Joseph (March 19) and of St. Joseph, the worker (May 1) and family life too in a special way. Furthermore, let us ask St. Joseph’s intercession upon the fathers in our life and give the saint a special place in our families and prayers.
- The Kampala Document
The Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) on January 21, 2021, launched in four countries around Africa, the final document and outcome of its year-long Golden Jubilee celebration, which was held from July 2018 to July 2019, and was concluded in the Ugandan capital, Kampala. The 100-page “Kampala Document”, was unveiled in Ghana, Burkina Faso, South Africa and Mozambique and is entitled “That They May Know Christ and Have Life in Abundance”, with the ceremonies beamed live online. The document urges the people of God in Africa and Madagascar to study the life of Jesus in the gospels, in order to follow him more closely, so as to receive from him the fullness of life that he brought to humanity”. We urge all our Priests, Religious, Lay Faithful, seminaries and other formation houses to access, study and apply the Kampala document to concrete pastoral needs. This is necessary so that evangelization efforts of the last 50 years in Africa may be further nurtured and the fruits therefrom, harnessed for further growth and consolidation.
- A Call to Prayer
Prayer is the oxygen that sustains people of faith and is based on God’s promise never to abandon his people. We plead with our faithful and all Nigerians to pray relentlessly that God continue to continue to bestow his mercy on our country, leaders and people. In our effort to conform our conduct with our prayers, God will bless our efforts and turn things around for better. “Can a woman forget her baby at the breast, feel no pity for the child she has borne? Even if these were to forget, I shall not forget you” (Isaiah 49:15). May Saint Joseph father of the Holy Family intercede for us all. Amen.
Most Rev. Gabriel Abegunrin, Most Rev. John Oyejola