Victor Ogunje in Ado Ekiti
Catholic Bishops have advised the federal government to stop treating the issue of herdsmen’s killings and other crimes with levity, saying such disposition from the government is creating panic and fear among Nigerians.
They said it is sad that the government does not even have a clear pattern on how to secure the lives of the people and through which those perpetrating the acts can be apprehended and punished.
The Catholic Bishops also appealed to the federal government to halt the attempt to license and tax places of worship in the country, saying they suspected that the government has a hidden agenda about this proposed action.
The clergymen said these in a communique issued and read by the Metropolitan Bishop of Ibadan and the President of the Nigeria Catholic Conference, Ibadan Ecclestiastical Province, Gabriel Abegunrin, after their meeting at the Pope John Paul II, Pastoral Centre in Ado Ekiti, the Ekiti State capital on Tuesday.
The Catholic Bishops called on governments in the West African subregion to invest more in youth development to reduce crimes like illegal immigration, prostitution, kidnapping and other social menaces.
“When this insecurity started, it was in one corner of the country, but now it has gone round the geopolitical zones. What is government doing? If there is no security, there is no reason for government to exist.
“It is unfortunate that Nigerians wake up each day to lament woeful news of killings, lynching, kidnappings and brigandage in the country. Many people including priests have fallen victims to this tragically insecure environment.
“The lack of clear pattern of punishing crimes and lip service commitment to the protection of lives and property on the part of the federal government and security agencies have made many Nigerians live in fear day to day.
“There seems to be no end in sight especially with allegations of killings by Fulani herdsmen being left unattended to. Time is running out for Nigeria if the security is not improved. We call on governments, traditional and other civiI authorities to please save our country,” they begged.
On the crimes of alleged self abduction and jailing of priests for rape, the Bishops said these were manifestations of the total rot in the Nigerian society and loss of family values, adding that all citizens must share in the blame.
“It is sad that we are losing our core family values. We must take care of our children and imbibe the culture of being our brother’s keepers like we had before, because what is happening today has to do with our backgrounds.
“We know the economic situation calls for us to overwork ourselves, but parents must look for time to take care of their children. This is the only way we can rid our society of evils and have a brighter future,” they said.
The Bishops commended the government on its improved commitment to the payment of workers’ salaries and pensions.
On the federal government’s directive through the Ministry of Interior to license places of worships for celebration of marriages and issuing of marriage certificates, the Bishops said such a proposal needed to be approached with caution and should be given a second thought, especially as it concerns imposition of annual levies on these institutions.
“Contemporary circumstances in Nigeria demand that government must approach religious matters with utmost caution so as not to be considered partisan and partial on national issues,” they said.
The Bishops warned the federal government against taking steps that could tinker with the freedom of the press, saying the media should not be gagged under any guise.
“Only courageous pressmen can now come out boldly to talk. But must all work hard and remove whatever that is working against the freedom of the press. Government must give the press that full freedom for them to be able to speak the truth always,” the clerics said.