Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt

As President Muhammadu Buhari restates his commitment to fight corruption, the Bishop of the Diocese of Evo, Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), Rt. Rev. Innocent Ordu, has called on the Federal Government to also take steps to fight hunger among the people.

The cleric also called on Buhari to define the scope of the fight against corruption and also ensure that it was all encompassing.

Ordu spoke yesterday during his presidential address/bishop’s charge at the first session of the third synod of the Diocese of Evo at St. Jude’s Anglican Church, Oginigba Deanery, Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State.

He commended Buhari on the fight against corruption but urged him not to be partisan in the crusade against corruption.

His words: “Within his one year in office, the new government of President Muhammadu Buhari has tried to redeem the image of Nigeria in the international community through his vigorous fight against corruption. We commend him for this and pray that God will use him to expose all those outside and within his government who have stolen the treasury of this country dry particularly against the backdrop of our being described as a “Fantastically Corrupt” nation by the immediate past British Prime Minister, Mr. David Cameron.

“We however advise Mr. President to ensure that he is not guilty of the accusation in some quarters that his war against corruption is selective particularly against politicians of the opposing camps. He should avoid the error of determining the corrupt status of a person simply by his/her political affiliation.

“Those who have issues bothering on corruption against them should like all others, be made to face the process of investigation or probe to ascertain their culpability or innocence even if they are part of the ruling party.

“The issue of corruption has so badly affected this country that no one engaged in it should be allowed to live comfortably or have a voice in the running of the affairs of this country without being made to answer for his/her crime against the state,” he stated.

He also called on the president to address issues of poverty and hunger in the country.

“As the talk and campaign against corruption persists, the government should endeavour to address the root causes of it, which are poverty and hunger arising from unemployment; poor/delayed wages and even outright non-payment of workers as is the case presently in most states across the country.

“Even though the present problems were not created by this administration but inherited from previous ones, Nigerians will continue to hold the government they see liable more so as the President and his political party campaign team promised to address these issues and many others squarely when voted into power.

“We therefore plead with the President and all Governors and Council Chairmen to pay all civil servants their salaries as and at when due and put food on the tables of hungry Nigerians,” he pleaded.

The bishop also tasked government: “While we stand with our leaders in their quest to execute this war, we must state that the modus operandi for this war is non-descript, undefined, nebulous, highly suspicious, confusing and at best fuzzy.

“For a start, we think that the president and all those who are in the vanguard of this fight must at once, define what they are fighting. Is corruption all about monies looted from the Central Bank of Nigeria? Is it only about misappropriated national funds used by a particular political party for elections? Is it about monies stolen at the national level? What about the states and local government levels? Is corruption limited to politicians alone: what of the admission cabals in our universities, what about civil servants who can falsify virtually anything on earth as long as you can pay, what of teachers and school managements who have put in place a systematic apparatus for aiding students to cheat in examinations? Where exactly does the definition stop?

“The extent of rot is quite intimidating, but the president must let the searchlight go right down so we don’t have a situation where he is fixing the roof while the foundation has collapsed.”

Ordu also called on the judiciary to support the fight against corruption by being steadfast in its rulings.

“Again, in this fight, our institutions must sit up; else, the fight will fail. For instance, the Judiciary has not covered itself in glory, to say the least. The barrage of conflicting pronouncements is sickening.

“The granting of frivolous injunctions to the EFCC to continue holding an accused even after another court has granted such bail, smacks of complicity and compromise. This ought not to be. The church must also remain non-partisan, no matter whose ox is gored. In fact, the church should point the way in this fight,” he said.

The bishop also took a swipe on Buhari for failing to fulfill his promises to Nigerians.

His words: “For a start, we recall how some allies of the President in the build up to last year’s presidential election promised Nigerians that the President would be addressing the problem of unemployment from his second day in office. They had ridiculed the past government and blamed it for the poor performance of the Naira which was then at N195 to a dollar.

“They promised that the Naira would be restored to its years of strength and parity with other foreign currencies.
None of these promises has been fulfilled. The rate of unemployment today has grown worse than what it used to be. The exchange rate of the naira today is N375 to a dollar. The promised change is far from coming.

“We advise the advisers and spokespersons of the President to help him and Nigeria by not shielding him away from the reality on ground. For the more they present a picture of “all is well” to him, the more they are likely to make Nigerians become disenchanted with his administration.

“In his first year in office, President Muhammadu Buhari has not sufficiently proved himself a father to all and a defender of the weak. Otherwise, how can we explain the inaction of this government in the face of several incidents of religious intolerance mainly against Christians in a supposedly secular country; the jungle justice/criminal act being committed by some ignorant Muslim fanatics who are bent on imposing the tents of their faith on others resulting in several cases of their killing of innocent Christians in the guise of fighting blasphemy against the Prophet Mohammed; their forceful abduction of young Christian girls, converting them to Islam and imposing husbands on them; the subtle attempt at introducing the vexatious sharia legal system in the Constitution of Nigeria and the scrapping of Christian Religious Knowledge from the curriculum of our schools at a time Islamic Religious Study is being strengthened by this same government accompanied with the mass recruitment of teachers in that subject for schools across the country.”

Ordu also commended Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, on the infrastructural development programmes of his administration but also advised him to consider training of teachers and equipping of schools built by the previous administration.