Catholic bishops task governments on proliferation of arms
By Bridget Ikyado
Governments at all levels must rise and checkmate the proliferation of small arms as insecurity rages unabated in the country, Catholic bishops declared in Abuja on Sunday.
They decried the terror regularly unleashed on communities by bandits, religion extremists and other gunmen.
“Governments should urgently check the proliferation of small arms and light weapons facilitated by the booming business of gunrunning which fuels insecurity in our country.
“It does not make sense to disarm the populace while armed criminals terrorise unarmed citizens,’’ President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) Archbishop Lucius Ugorji, said.
He was addressing the opening of the second plenary of a retreat of the CBCN.
“We appeal to kidnappers and their sponsors and to those who unleash violence in our communities to have a change of heart and shun all forms of criminality to avoid God’s wrath.
“We also strongly denounce the mindless and reckless spilling of blood and destruction of property in our communities by hardened criminals and some trigger-happy government security operatives.
“The shedding of innocent blood is an abomination. God hates hands that shed innocent blood,’’ he stressed.
Speaking on the state of the economy Ugorji noted that while the economy was declining, the masses continued to suffer just as crime rate increased.
“We cannot get tired of urging government to rise to its primary responsibility of securing the lives and property of its citizens,’’ he said.
The archbishop also expressed the hope that future elections in Nigeria would be decided at the polls and not at the courts.
He appealed to governments at all levels to cut the cost of governance and to address deepening poverty and growing youth unemployment.
Ugorji also had some advice for ECOWAS and for the AU.
“We appeal to the leadership of ECOWAS and the AU to resist the temptation of recognising military intervention as solution to leadership crisis in Africa.
“They should continue to explore the more peaceful option of diplomatic negotiations.
“Such dialogues may require due attention to the causes of rising military interventions in African countries.
“While we denounce coups, we must state loud and clear that political leadership exists to promote the common good.
“Consequently, political leaders incapable of furthering the welfare of their citizens or who work against their peoples’ interests and wellbeing have no moral justification to continue in power, whether elected or not,’’ he said.
Also addressing the retreat, General Secretary of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Prof. Samson Fatokun, commended the Catholic bishops for their commitment to peace and unity in Nigeria.
Fatokun represented the CAN president, Archbishop Daniel Okoh at the retreat.
He commended the CBCN for constantly making interventions by raising prophetic voice on crucial national issues.
He noted that Nigeria was still buffeted on all sides by issues that threatened its collective existence.
He said it was incumbent on faith leaders to provide hope and guidance for the faithful and for the citizenry at large.
“This plenary session is coming at a time when Nigerians are still going through excruciating pains, harsh economic climate banditry and kidnapping.
“Prices of basic necessities have skyrocketed beyond the reach of ordinary people and there appears not to be any respite in sight.
“The living conditions of average Nigerian families today are better imagined than experienced.
“It is indeed a time to worry! In all these, I believe that God Almighty will use faith leaders to fix this country if we do not give up,’’ he said. (NAN)