The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria has joined the call for restructuring of the country that will see power devolved from the federal to states and local governments.
The conference made the call in its message to the government and people of Nigeria released yesterday. The message, which was issued by its President, Archbishop Augustine Akubeze, also called on President Buhari to show more tolerance for constructive criticism by concerned leaders and citizens who could be politicians, religious leaders or ordinary citizens who believe that the country should be better governed.
Recalling that Nigerians have experienced broken promises by political leaders since civil rule returned to the country in 1999, the conference emphasized that no one who witnessed the several failed military dictatorships before then would ever pray for a return to military rule in Nigeria again.
It noted that the conference has spoken on the need for the government to ensure that democracy works for every Nigerian, adding that it has also consistently spoken against government’s failure on its constitutional obligation to protect lives and property and welfare of every citizen.
On its position that Buhari was intolerant of constructive criticism, the conference said every Nigerian is a stakeholder and has the right to express themselves on how the country is governed in ways that do not incite others.
It said Nigerians are sick of the height of insecurity in the country, pointing out that it has got to the level that a state governor now runs from insurgents in spite of being regarded as the chief security officer of his state.
“Nigerians are tired of hearing of bandits taking youths in the university and executing some of them while others are kept to be used for bargain for ransom. The insecurity is leading to a daily loss of lives and property in every part of the country. These facts are indisputable. A country where students are no longer safe in schools nor farmers safe on their farm does not have a future to look to.” The conference said in part.
It faulted claims by the presidency that some religious leaders and politicians were plotting to destabilize the country. Acknowledging that the Nigerian Army had denied plans to topple a democratically elected government, the conference rejected any call for such but urged the federal government not to focus its energy on propaganda against religious leaders who disagree with its performance.
It said: “While we reject any call for the destabilization of Nigeria or military take-over, we nonetheless say to the federal government of Nigeria led by President Muhammadu Buhari, there is no need to focus your energy, time and resources in any form of propaganda against religious leaders who disagree with your performance. There is no need to spend so much time trying to blackmail anyone who criticizes your government. We speak out because we do not want Nigeria to collapse. We are speaking out so that Nigeria will not fail. APC is not the owner of Nigeria; Nigeria is owned by Nigerians irrespective of political affiliation.”
The bishops posited that it is not out of place to call for a security summit at this time so long as it leads to peace, justice, security and progress of Nigerians. It urged the Federal Government to be transparent with every Nigerian in the struggle to revive the economy and objectively deal with corruption and reduce the level of insecurity in the country.
While advising religious leaders to refrain from inflammatory statements that can distort their real message to the government, the bishops said clerics must be united in the fight for “our common destiny as a people.”
It added: “It must be clearly stated to the Federal Government that if they continue to ignore the constructive criticisms and recommendations of Nigerians from every sector, the country will collapse and ungovernable…
“In Nigeria, the Catholic Church wants the Federal Government to call for a meeting of all stakeholders to have a sincere discussion on the way forward. Such discussions must seek how to implement the much talked about restructuring and devolution of power down to the local government level.”
The conference prayed God to grant the Federal Government and other state actors the wisdom and courage to bring peace and justice to every Nigerian.