Catholic Bishops' of Nigeria say "We Must Pull Back from the Brink of Collapse" in Message to People - FULL TEXT

FULL TEXT Letter of the Bishops to the People of Nigeria :
We Must Pull Back From The Brink Of Collapse.
A Message of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria
to all People of Goodwill in Nigeria
23 February 2021
Our dear brothers and sisters,
1. Our country Nigeria has gone through many crises, and so
far, has managed to survive them, by God’s grace. But the ongoing crisis
in the country should be of grave concern to everyone who still
believes in “one united nation under God”. We are really on the brink of
a looming collapse, from which we must do all we can to pull back before
the worst overcomes the nation. This is not merely crying wolf without
2. The very survival of the nation is at stake. The nation
is falling apart. Serious insecurity, clearly evident in widespread loss of
lives and property, for long unaddressed, has left the sad and dangerous
impression that those who have assumed the duty and authority to
secure the nation are either unable – or worse still, unwilling – to take
up the responsibilities of their office. Time is running out and the
situation needs to improve!
3. The clamour for self-defense is fast gaining ground. Many ethnic
champions are loudly beating the drums of war, calling not only for
greater autonomy but even for outright opting out of a nation in which
they have lost all trust and sense of belonging. The calls for secession
on an ethnic basis from many quarters should not be ignored or taken
lightly. Many have given up on the viability and even on the desirability
of the Nigeria project as one united country. No wonder many non-state
actors are filling the vacuum created by a palpable failure of
government. The Federal Government under President Muhammadu
Buhari can no longer delay rising to its obligation to govern the nation;
not according to ethnic and religious biases but along the lines of
objective and positive principles of fairness, equity and, above all,
justice. It is not too much for Nigerians to demand from Mr President
sincerity both in the public and private domain. There are no more
4. We, of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria, with members
from all parts of Nigeria, are very highly disturbed about the present
state of instability in the land. This must not be allowed to continue to
fester and degenerate. We are raising this alarm because of our deep
patriotic love for our nation, not for any sectional interests, be they
political, ethnic or even religious.
5. Despite the persistence of crises around us; assassinations, Covid 19,
kidnappings, murders, banditry, armed robberies, we sincerely affirm
our faith in the viability and desirability of the Nigeria Project, as one
prosperous nation under God. But we are also convinced that building
such a nation, especially in our present circumstances, comes at a cost.
We are also convinced that the alternative of tearing
ourselves apart, comes with a cost that is far higher than what it
takes to keep ourselves together. We must be ready to seek a common
purpose with sincerity of mind. As individuals and as groups, we ought
to be ready to make the necessary sacrifices that would enable us to
manage our differences better and turn them into a positive rather than
a negative force. Governments at different levels ought to lead the way.
6. We need to have the courage to admit that there is a lot wrong with
our nation. It is our patriotic duty to point this out, with all objectivity
and sincerity. The rule of law has too often been disregarded, giving way
to widespread impunity, leading to a progressive break down of good
order. There is a wide consensus that even the laws and rules we have
made for ourselves are often the cause of our problems. No wonder there
is an on-going clamour for constitution review,
restructuring, decentralization of the security agencies and calls for
many changes to many things we have been taking for granted.
Examples include issues surrounding national census, constituency
delimitations, states and the nagging issue of Local Government
autonomy, violence and lack of internal democracy in political parties, a
weak and compromised National Assembly, the Amendment of
the Electoral Act etc. In these matters, the nation is not lacking in many
good and brilliant ideas. What has been lacking has been the political will
to embrace the change that is necessary for building a better nation.
7. We note the changes in the Command of the Service Chiefs. They are
insiders and should be familiar with the problems of the insurgency and
banditry. It is our prayer that we will witness a more co-ordinated
strategy with State Governments and other security agencies for winning
this sad war.
8. In conclusion, we wish to remind our countrymen and women that
there are some basic values and principles that we need to uphold if the
Nigeria project is to be successful. These include mutual respect for and
acceptance of our diversities, a deep sense of justice for every person,
equity, solidarity and inclusiveness. In addition, we must be ready for
sincere dialogue, in the true sense of the word, as it was once defined
by His Eminence, Francis Cardinal Arinze, who is a renowned expert in
dialogue: “You talk, I listen. I talk, you listen.” On the one hand, there
should be a dialogue between the people and the government.
Government has the duty to create room for such dialogue, with groups
and with individuals. It means being open and receptive to criticism. On
the other hand, we the people need to dialogue with one another across
our various lines of diversities and identities. In particular, ethnic and
religious groups need to find a way to put their heads together to deal
with our common challenges.
9. We note with deep sorrow, the events that have occurred in Niger
State. These developments still expose our collective vulnerability. There
is an urgent need for a clear strategy between the federal security
agencies and the state governments to end the tragedy that we face. In
addition, we propose the need for a formal meeting of statesmen and
women across the board for us to think through the challenges that seem
poised to push us into the abyss.
10. We pray, and we call on all to pray and work for the achievement of
one Nigeria under God where the principle of the common good will be
thought out and enshrined. We submit ourselves to the directives of God
the Almighty Father to fill us with the wisdom and courage to pull back
from this brink of collapse. Amen.
President - Most Rev. Augustine Obiora Akubeze 
Secretary - Most Rev. Camillus Raymond Umoh
Archbishop of Benin-City Bishop of Ikot Ekpene