His Eminence, John Cardinal Onaiyekan (middle), leading the other Catholic Bishops in Nigeria and the lay faithful of the Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja in a Prayer Protest against killings, kidnappings, armed robbery and rising insecurity in Nigeria in obedience to the instructions of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) for the holding of such protest in Abuja, yesterday.
PHOTO: DANIEL TYOKUA
*Accuse him of Islamizing Nigeria
*Say FG insensitive
By Daniel Tyokua
The Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), yesterday took a swipe on President Muhammadu Buhari’s handling of security problems in the country, and urged him to seek foreign assistance to bring the menace to an end.
They also condemned what was described as lopsided appointment of officers from predominantly one religion faith to man the nation’s security architecture, and wondered if there was “a hidden agenda” to destroy the secular status of the country.
The bishops who led thousands of Abuja Catholic faithful on a Prayer Protest on Sunday, said in unequivocal terms that the rising state of insecurity in the country is “troubling and worrisome” and called on the president to rejig the security architecture.
Speaking during the protest which took off at the National Christian Center, Abuja and terminated at Our Lady Queen of Nigeria Catholic Pro-Cathedral, the President of the CBCN, Archbishop Augustine Akubueze, decried what he called government’s insensitivity to worsening security problems in the country.
The cleric regretted that with several attacks by the Boko Haram and other terrorists groups especially in the North-East zone, government’s approach to tackling the menace remains less than satisfactory.
Said the CBCN President: “We are gathered here to protest the brutal killing of innocent Nigerians by the Boko Haram and terrorist herdsmen, who have taken over peoples’ homes and farmland.
“We are gathered here to register our protests against kidnappings in several parts of Nigeria. We are gathered to mourn the children, women, and men who are being killed by these terrorists. We are gathered to let the Federal Government of Nigeria know that we are tired of hearing from them that Boko Haram has been technically defeated, even when they still attack with impunity.
“Many local and international security experts have said that the terrorists use sophisticated weapons; we wonder how they secure better weapons than our security that are every year heavily funded by our budget.
“Our protest is part of our religious obligation to speak prophetically on actions against God’s commandment. Killing of God’s children is evil. The failure to protect innocent citizens from unwarranted attack is evil. Our government’s response to terrorists’ attacks, for lack of better word, are far below average.
“There have been too many mass burials; too many kidnappings of children, men, women, travellers, invasion of peoples’ homes, sacred places like churches, mosques, seminaries, etc.
“We sometimes read of our government sending condolence messages to Western countries when there is a terrorist attack that may have led to the death of one or two persons. We commend the Federal Government for the little effort, but we are utterly surprised when we discover that the same Nigerian Federal Government will not even send a condolence message to families who have suffered fatalities in the hands of Boko Haram and killer herdsmen.
“The killing of several people in the country are now almost taken as being normal. We see government as completely insensitive to the plight of Nigerians.
“The government that totally ignores the cries of people who elected it into office is set out for a fantastic failure. It does not matter which party is involved”.
Archbishop Akubueze stated that the resultant effect of failed promises and rising insecurity have made people in the presidency and several other politicians afraid to go to places where they had campaigned during elections and also to places where they won elections.
“They are being booed by those who once supported them because they feel let down,” he said.
Reminding President Muhammadu Buhari that the bishops always pray for his success in dealing with insecurity in the country, he added that “we pray for Nigeria you lead so that every Nigerian will feel safe and equal in the country, irrespective of their belief or religious background”.
He stressed: “We want you to know that we pray to God to help your government realize that loyalty to Nigerians, loyalty to the unity of our country, should be such that people around you who occupy sensitive security portfolio should not mainly be from one section of the country or of one religious belief. This is a recipe for disaster, in a multi-ethnic, multi-diverse nation.
“Mr President, as we pray for you, we want you to listen to the cries of Nigerians. The National Assembly, in a unanimous voice call, asked you to change the security chiefs. Listen to the Muslim leaders who call for more government proactive actions to prevent terrorists’ attacks in Nigeria and especially in the North-Eastern Nigeria.
“Mr President, please ask for foreign help to stop this over 12 years of terrorists attacks on Nigerians. Mr. President, stop those who work with you from politicizing the killings of Nigerians. The bulk of terrorists do not know who is a member of APC or PDP.
“Mr President, Nigeria is a secular state. You have to reassure Nigerians that there is no secret agenda to Islamize Nigeria or to give Islam and Muslims undue advantage over other religious and their adherents”.
He reminded President Buhari that his “silence is breeding some mistrust and the longer it stays this way, the more you lose those who could have given you the benefit of doubt”, stressing that “as things stand now, it appears only a few Nigerians can defend you with reason, or argue that your silence is not an endorsement of the barbaric actions of terrorists and other hoodlums”.
He urged government to step up measures at securing the release of abducted persons especially the abducted Chibok girls, Leah Sharibu, among others.
Earlier at a mass preceding the bishops’ plenary meeting at the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN), Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo who thumped up government’s achievements, had assured of a brighter future for Nigeria.
The procession which witnessed the participation of several Catholics and people of other religious denominations all decked in black attire, was successful in spite of the heavy first rainfall of the year.
Some of the inscriptions on the placards of the protesters read: “Politicians, Work For The Good of Nigeria”; “Enough Is Enough”; “Crooked and Wicked Leaders, God Is Watching You”; “FG Wake Up From Your Sleep”.