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A COMMUNIQUÉ ISSUED BY THE CATHOLIC BISHOPS OF THE LAGOS ECCLESIASTICAL PROVINCE AT THE END OF THEIR FIRST PLENARY MEETING FOR THE YEAR 2023 ON MONDAY, 23RD JANUARY 2023, AT ST. AGNES CATHOLIC CHURCH, MARYLAND, LAGOS.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Preamble


We, the Catholic Bishops of the Lagos Ecclesiastical Province, which comprises Lagos Archdiocese, Abeokuta Diocese, and Ijebu-Ode Diocese, met on Monday, 23rd January 2023, at St Agnes Catholic Church, Maryland, Lagos. In the course of our meeting, we interacted with the leadership of the clergy, the religious, and the various lay organizations and societies in our province.

After prayerful deliberation on several issues bordering on the well-being of the faithful in our province and the people of our country Nigeria as a whole, we issue the following communique:

1. Thanks be to God for the New Year
We thank the Almighty God for seeing us safely through the year 2022, despite its numerous challenges. Indeed, last year was particularly trying for most Nigerians as a result of excruciating economic hardship, widespread insecurity, and an unprecedented rise in the level of poverty, all of which made access to the basic necessities of life a herculean task.

We face the year 2023 with optimism and hope, urging Nigerians not to allow the challenges of the year just ended to weigh them down, but to remain focused and prayerful, as we work together for a better future for ourselves and generations to come.

2. Commendation for the JDPC
We commend the Justice Development and Peace Commission, JDPC, under the Department of Church and Society of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, CSN, for all its efforts in sensitizing Nigerians to participate actively in the forthcoming national elections, and also for its effort in securing registration and accreditation for 6000 members of the Catholic Church to serve as Election Observers nationwide.

3. Imperative of Free, Fair and Credible Elections
We note with some concern that the forthcoming national elections commencing on the 25th February 2023, will likely be among the most contentious in the history of our country, Nigeria. Yet they offer another unique opportunity for all eligible citizens of this great country to rise to their civic responsibility by going out to vote for credible leaders with the capacity and competence to re-order the socio-economic and political dynamics of our nation, so that Nigerians can indeed have a new lease of life. We call on all eligible voters to ensure that they obtain their PVCs and come out en-masse to cast their votes. Let them set aside ethnic, religious, and political biases to vote in only the candidates who are most qualified to take our country along the path of true growth and development.

4. No To Electoral Violence
We are aware that most of the candidates for the Presidency of our country have earlier signed a peace accord initiated by the Peace Committee put together by Elder Statesman, Gen. Abdulsalam Abubakar and Bishop Mathew Hassan Kukah, pledging to play by the rules of the Electoral Act. We note with regret that some of them appear not to be adhering to the terms of the peace accord that they signed, given the rising cases of politically motivated violence across the country. If these are not checked, they are capable of truncating the electoral process.

We, therefore, appeal to leaders of all the political parties to honour the agreement that they signed by prevailing on their supporters to refrain from violence and all forms of political thuggery, and adhere strictly to the provisions of the newly enacted Electoral Act. Similarly, we call on the law enforcement agencies and other relevant agencies of Government to work assiduously and impartially to ensure that peace prevails in the country before, during, and after the electoral processes.

5. Commiseration
The past year witnessed an unprecedented rise in cases of insecurity across the country as a result of the activities of terrorists, bandits and kidnappers who abduct and kill innocent Nigerians on a daily basis, even after collecting ransom for their victims. Members of the clergy have not been spared these wicked and inhuman attacks. Many of our priests have fallen victim of these attacks, and not a few have been killed in cold blood. No country can thrive in an atmosphere of chaos and anarchy. Certainly not Nigeria.
On this note, we commiserate with our Venerable Brother, the Bishop of Minna Diocese, Most Rev. Dr. Martin Uzoukwu, on the brutal killing of his priest, Very Rev. Fr. Isaac Achi, by yet-to-be-identified murderers, and the burning down of Church property. We pray the good Lord to grant eternal rest to the dead and protection for the living. We also pray that the perpetrators of the heinous crime will be apprehended and made to face the law.

6. Stop the Persecution of Christians
There is no doubt that Christians in Nigeria are facing one of their most challenging times since the attainment of independence by Nigeria in 1960. According to available statistics, Nigeria is among the countries of the world in which Christians are most persecuted. We are all witnesses to the atrocities directed at communities that are predominantly Christian as it is in Benue and Plateau states. We, therefore, once again call on the Government to rise to its statutory obligation to protect the life and property of Nigerians of all faiths and no faith, and give them a sense of belonging.

7. Need For National Rebirth
That the ship of our nation is sinking rapidly is no exaggeration. This is not the same country that was bequeathed to us by our founding fathers. We cannot remain unconcerned while things continue to get out of hand, or else we shall, sooner than later, no longer have a country to call our own. We, therefore, appeal to Nigerians in all walks of life, including professionals, politicians, media practitioners, the judiciary, security agencies, traditional rulers, the clergy, and, indeed, the populace in general, to join hands to rebuild our nation. We can respond to this call for national rebirth by being the change that we desire, by making necessary adjustments to our daily activities to stand for the truth at all times. We should shun evil and all corrupt practices, and uphold whatever is just and edifying. It is time we began to say “No” to all the vices that weigh us down as a people, and promote positive values in all spheres of our national life.

8. Conclusion
We strongly believe that our country Nigeria will be great again, despite the numerous challenges that we are currently facing. The Bible urges us to pray without ceasing. Therefore, we urge our fellow Nigerians not to relent in praying for God’s intervention in the plight of our country. He sees what we are going through, and He will surely rescue us.

Most Rev. Francis Adesina, DD
Bishop of Ijebu-Ode,
Secretary.

Most Rev. Alfred Adewale Martins, DD
Archbishop of Lagos,
Chairman.

 


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