Our attention has been drawn to a trending article that alleged that the Church in the Archdiocese of Lagos has not shown any concern towards the plight of those who were affected by the explosion in Abule-Ado about a month ago. This piece is for no other reason than to put matters in due perspective and correct the error in the perception of one of the daughters of the Church.
On March 15, 2020 a loud explosion rocked the Abule-Ado area of Lagos, devastating several houses and offices, including the Bethlehem Girls College owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos. Many people died in the explosion including Rev Sister Henrietta Alokha, SSH who was the Administrator of the College and seven other members of staff. All thanks to God, none of our students died even though some sustained injuries.
As soon as the Archbishop ended the Mass that he was celebrating on that day, he came to the Military Hospital where some of those injured were being treated and he went to the St. Joseph Catholic Church thereafter where he was told about the fact that some of the faithful of the Parish also died with their properties lost. He went into the church, prayed with those who were present, offered words of consolation and admonished them to hold on to one another and support one another. Thereafter, he went to the College grounds to assess the situation and gave instructions that the medical bills of the staff and students should be taken up by the Directorate of Education. The Director of Education for the Archdiocese, Very Rev. Msgr. Jerome Oduntan, was given the responsibility of working with the Parents/Teachers Association and the Administrators of other schools to ensure that the psychological impact of the explosion on students and teachers were promptly addressed and also that the education of the students of the College was not compromised. As it is today, the ongoing arrangement is that the staff and the students of the College would be deployed to other Archdiocesan Schools according to capacity and needs.
The Archbishop also approved the appointment of the Director of Education of the Archdiocese in to the committee that the Lagos State Government set up to deal with issues regarding the explosion as it pertains to exploring the ways to support the victims of the unfortunate explosion. We are aware that corporate organisations and others have been making donations to help the victims of the tragic incident. Msgr. Oduntan has been taking active part in the discussions and we hope that the relief promised would be made available to the victims sooner than later.
As a Church, we operate through different groups and Associations. So, the Archbishop approved that the Catholic Men Organization (CMO) should raise funds to support the victims who are members of the parish and so far from the donations given by members, they have been offering palliative to its members that were affected by the explosion after a careful compilation of the varied degrees of persons that were affected by the incident. Some money has been paid to the members to assist them while awaiting the fulfilment of the support to be given by the government. Those who received the help duly acknowledged receipt. We are also aware that other Church Associations through which the Church operates are active in St. Joseph’s Parish doing their best to help. We are also aware that the Catholic Women Organization (CWO), is putting in place a similar effort to support members affected in the parish and beyond.
On the issue of providing foodstuffs for those in need during this COVID-19 Pandemic, the Archbishop of Lagos recently released about N10,000,000 million to 78 parishes for the purchase of foodstuffs to be distributed to the needy. This is in addition to his directive that Parish Priests of the over 180 parishes in the Archdiocese are to arrange with its relevant committees to purchase and distribute foodstuffs as palliative to needy parishioners. This is being carried out successfully with high evidence of compliance in all the parishes.
By its nature of operation, the Church does not blow her own trumpets. It only became necessary to correct the impression created in the article under reference that the Church in Lagos has not been responsive to the plight of her children. Indeed, the Church considers herself as being in partnership with Government in taking care of people and so she feels obliged to support government initiatives that are directed to the welfare of the Society. It is part of the tradition of the Church to make her own contributions to social welfare as she deems it fit and is able to. We urge Lagos State Government to ensure that it continues to review the process that she is using in providing assistance to the most vulnerable especially at this time of the lockdown due to COVID-19 in the state.
Government must put a machinery in place in order to monitor how those who are given the task of distributing the palliatives are doing it so that it does not become a party political affair or worse still that the items are not diverted for private purposes. The Catholic Church will continue to champion the course of the masses, irrespective of their religion or ethnicity. By the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Church will continue to proclaim the message of God's saving grace to all and sundry to the greater glory of God.
Rev. Fr. Anthony Godonu,
Director of Social Communications,
Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos.
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