The Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria, CBCN, has said Nigeria was passing through the darkest chapter of its history.
President of CBCN,His Grace Most Rev Lucius Ugorji, stated this over the weekend, at the opening session of the 2022 Second Plenary of the CBCN at the Sacred Heart Pastoral Centre, Orlu, Imo State.
He lamented that Nigerians had been subjected to high level insecurity, high rate of unemployment and soaring prices of good and services, now priced beyond the reach of a larger portion of the population.
Ugorji said: “The level of insecurity in the country is very worrisome. We are passing through what might be deemed as the darkest chapter of our history as a nation.
“Extreme poverty, soaring unemployment rate, spiralling inflation, a collapsing economy, with ever increasing debt burden, and worsening insecurity have combined to complicate the plight of the average Nigerian, who appears condemned to a life of intolerable hardship and undeserved misery.
“The country has continued to bleed endlessly as a result of the ungodly activities of insurgents, bandits, militant herdsmen, unknown gunmen, kidnappers and trigger-happy security agents. Nowhere seems safe anymore. Homes, farmlands, markets, highways, places of worship and presbyteries have all been turned into kidnapping and killing fields.
“Innocent citizens are butchered with savagery and brazen impunity by criminals who lack a sense of the sanctity of human life.”
The cleric, who noted that the best way to guarantee security in a nation was through good governance that aimed at the common good for the greater number of the citizens, said: “Good governance generates peace, which is the bedrock of development, and which takes root when people’s dignity and rights are respected; when there is the rule of law; when citizens are not excluded from political participation; when there is equitable distribution of national resources and people are free from hunger, poverty and unemployment.
“It is, therefore, belabouring the obvious to observe that lack of good governance results in extreme poverty, unemployment, hardship, crime and violent conflicts.
“In these difficult times, we cannot but stress that the first responsibility any government owes its citizens is the security of their lives and property. Nigerians have the right to live in a secure and safe country. This is basic; every other thing flows from it.
“After the heavy annual budgets on yearly basis and after repeated assurances by government that it is on top of the matter, our country remains plagued by insecurity. This is a shame.
“Government must wake up. Given that government appears overwhelmed in securing us, we encourage dioceses to take adequate measures to beef up security in our parishes, presbyteries and other church Institutions.
]“We also urge dioceses and all people of goodwill to take the upcoming 2023 general elections seriously. We must all brace up to share our values on good governance based on the common good, and use our votes to elect people of unassailable integrity who have the character, competence, capacity and track record to lead our nation out of the present economic doldrums.”
On migration of Nigerians and concomitant brain drain facing the country, Archbishop Ugorji said: “The rising insecurity and worsening economic situation in the country are resulting in migration and brain drain.
‘’Professionals and skilled labourers are leaving the country in thousands annually in search of safety, security, job opportunities and better standard of living abroad, especially in Europe, United States and other African countries.
“No doubt, regular remittances from these migrant help to alleviate poverty among the households they left behind and impact positively on our national economy as a major source of inflow of foreign earning.
“Be that as it may, professionals and skilled labourers, who would have helped in national development, are lost to the country. This is only one side of the story.
“The other side of the story, which is more of a national disgrace, consists of thousands of young men and women, who in search of greener pastures, embark on perilous journeys to Europe across the Sahara Desert. Along the way, some die and are buried in unmarked graves.
Modern day slavery
“Others are trafficked for slave labour, sexual exploitation and organ harvesting. Many get drowned as they try to crossover the Mediterranean Sea with rickety and risky boats. Those who are lucky to make it to their final destinations end up in camps for asylum seekers, where they are at times subjected to subhuman conditions.
“Despite the collaborative efforts of the Police, Customs, Immigration, National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons, NAPTIP, and Network Against Child Trafficking Abuse and Labour, NACTAL, to tackle human trafficking in Nigeria, traffickers are having a field day.
“This despicable modern day slavery is booming because it has become a lucrative business and also as a result of the high level of corruption underpinning it.
“Out of desperation to escape from extreme poverty and in the bid to support their poor families financially, some young girls, with the support of their parents, volunteer themselves to be trafficked for prostitution, without being aware of the level of exploitation and dehumanisation awaiting them.”
He called on dioceses, parishes and church organisations across the country to help raise awareness on this evil, adding that one of the most effective ways of stemming migration, brain drain and human trafficking was through good governance.
The cleric argued that if people were assured of security and safety, good job opportunities and better living conditions in their homeland, they would not be tempted to leave their countries.
Ecology and environmental degradation
On ecology and environmental degradation, Archbishop Ugorji said over the years, ecological issues and environmental degradation had been commanding the attention of scientists, political leaders and the church.