The Catholic Bishops in Nigeria, operating under the auspices of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), has urged the federal government to avoid the temptation of trying to demonise or criminalise opposition elements or those calling for independence of their region.
The bishops restated their opposition to any form of electoral system that would made it possible for the votes of Nigerians not to be respected.
The clerics also lamented that the level of insecurity in every part of the country is of great concern to them.
These views were contained in the address by the President of the CBCN, Archbishop Augustine Akubeze, at the second plenary held in Enugu on Sunday
Speaking on the calls for independence being demanded by some parts of the country, the bishops advised everyone to be calm and to exhaust extensive consultation.
Akabueze said: “The federal government as well as those leading the call for independence of some regions should be listened to. Everyone must avoid the temptation to demonise those who disagree with them.
“The first step that should be taken is an open and unconditional dialogue with every group. Dialogue is always better than the taking up of arms. No one should call for the killing of military personnel, and no military personnel should intimidate any Nigeria because of their views. Freedom of speech and respect for diversities of opinions must be respected.”
He also said that the right to self-determination should follow a civilised pattern and should not be demonised or criminalised, adding that the bishops have called “everyone to be calm and exhaust extensive consultation.”
The bishops also commented on the security challenges facing the country and pointed out that the appointments of new service chiefs have not produced the desired effect.
“Many of us, bishops have had to bury our faithful who died because of attacks of insurgents, bandits, kidnappers, cultists, and those who have died because of road accidents caused by bad roads. Too many Nigerians are dying of preventable deaths, the federal government, state government, and local government must rise to their responsibility,” the bishops said.
The catholic bishops also expressed their opposition to any form of electoral system that would not make it possible for the votes of Nigerians not to be respected.
The bishops said the world is moving towards a more digital system of administration, adding that electoral reform in Nigeria must align itself with this change.
They sided with electronic transmission of electoral results so that rigging of elections at the various points of collection should become a thing of the past.
However, the bishop’s conference re-stated that inasmuch as priests were free to condemn any government policy that is not people friendly, no cleric should use his position or ecclesiastical property for promoting what appears to be partisan politics.
“Therefore, it is imperative that clerics must avoid every form of political endorsement using the ecclesiastical positions given to them. At the same time, it is not the practice of the church to identify unelected leaders through some form of prophetic visions or dreams or revelation.
Having stated the above, we must make it clear once again, that no cleric is expected to use his position or ecclesiastical property for promoting what appears to be partisan politics.
“The church strongly believes that all political parties do have something or persons that can lead. Therefore, it is imperative that clerics must avoid every form of political endorsement using the ecclesiastical positions given to them. At the same time, it is not the practice of the church to identify unelected leaders through some form of prophetic visions or dreams or revelation.
“The church does not pronounce a particular candidate as God’s anointed political leader. The role of clerics is to educate the people to choose leaders who will work for the good of humanity. We call on diocesan bishops to ensure that appropriate actions are taken immediately when any priest or religious violates this traditional catholic belief,” CBCN said.
The bishops observed that Nigerians are “bearing a high level of inflation, depreciation of the Naira, increased poverty, shortage of food because of herders/farmers crisis, insecurity to life and property, insensitivity and lack of federal government response to the cries of many Nigerians in the area of economic revolution, structural development, through eradication of corruption, avoidance of selective sectional appointments to important federal positions.”