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Violence, killings in South-East evidence of failure of governance at all levels – Religious leaders

Christian religious leaders in the South East have condemned the burgeoning violence in the South East geopolitical zone, lamenting that the situation has arisen as a result of failure of governance at all levels of government in the zone, even in the whole country.
The Christian leaders, who decried the seeming endless flow of blood in the hitherto peaceful and relatively safe region against the backdrop of violence and killings in other parts of the country, especially in the north, warned that the future was gloomy for the East if nothing urgent was done to arrest the situation.

Tracing the “gloomy situation” to what he called “failure of governance at various levels,” the Christian leaders said there was an urgent need to restore trust, confidence and calm in South East and indeed all parts of the country.

They called on the federal government to expeditiously address the underlying reason for the agitations in the South East which, according to them, were underlined by the people’s desire for equity, fairness and good governance in Nigeria.

Their stand was contained in a statement signed on their behalf by the Catholic Archbishop of Owerri, Most Rev. Anthony Obinna; Anglican Archbishop of Enugu, Most Rev. Emmanuel Chukwuma; Methodist Archbishop of Umuahia, Most Rev. Chibuzo Opoko; Catholic Archbishop of Onitsha, Most Rev. Valerian Okeke and Chaiman, CAN, South East Zone, Rev. Abraham Nwali.

“The tragic plight of our youth, our families and individuals in the entire South East Region is now a cause for grave concern for us all in our local communities and within our various church bodies,” the statement read, in part.

“The level of violence and insecurity in our land is no longer tolerable. A land where people have always been known for their industry, entrepreneurship and creativity is now living in crippling fear. Our land is soaked with blood and a gloomy cloud hangs in the air. This cannot be allowed to go on.

“Whereas some may be content with analysing only the immediate causes of this situation, we would prefer to point out that at the root of all this is the failure of governance at various levels.

“With the return to constitutional democracy in 1999, our people had looked forward to a national sense of belonging and the restoration of equity and fairness in dealing with all segments of Nigeria. This, unfortunately, has not happened.

“The failure in this regard opened the way for ethnic and sectional agitations for justice and fairness. With the increasing divide between the ruling class and the people, and the vacuum created by an alienating leadership at the Federal, Regional and State levels, separatist bodies emerged and soon began to win the loyalty of frustrated citizens.

“In the South East of Nigeria, one of such groups, the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), gained prominence some years ago. Although it was proscribed by the Federal Government in 2017, the group has continued its agitation for an independent State of Biafra, often leading to heavy military responses and the loss of lives of many youths. The group is also accused of various killings, many of which it denies.

“This situation has created a very dangerous environment, which is being exploited by many criminal elements who have unleashed a reign of terror on the helpless citizens of the region.

“As religious leaders of this badly battered region, we appeal to all those responsible for the killings to please stop, before the entire South East descends into anarchy, which will invariably affect the other parts of the country. We believe that there are still other options besides violence, over-militarization of the area, and senseless killings.

“We passionately call on the Federal Government to, as a matter of urgency, address the underlying reason for the agitations, namely, the desire for equity, fairness and good governance in Nigeria, in order to eliminate, or at least minimize, the separatist agitations, not only in the South East, but everywhere else in Nigeria.”

Expressing displeasure with political leaders in the region, the Christian leaders charged them to change their ways saying: “We equally appeal to the political leaders of the South East to see themselves as representatives of the people and to invest all available resources in the security, development of the region, and creation of jobs.

“It ought to be remembered that all these agitations are cries for help by people many of whom have invested time, energies and resources in education and learning a trade, yet they cannot find gainful employment.

“Our political leaders must do something to reduce the huge gulf between their personal welfare and that of the people at large. In a special way, we urge that, since the youth are our strength and hope as a nation in our various regions and states, extra attention, care and sacrifice need to be expended, in order to win back their confidence and trust in Government. They ought to be given the opportunity to participate constructively and productively in the delicate task of nation building.”

The spiritual fathers, who pledged to collaborate with elected representatives, the private sector and others to address the concerns of the youths also promised to engage members of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) and other separatist groups to eschew all violent activities.

“But we cannot reasonably do this as long as any of them is proscribed as a terrorist group. We therefore call on the Federal Government to consider granting amnesty to IPOB and other separatist groups. We believe that the de-criminalization and de-proscription of these groups would lead them to embrace the democratic and non-violent means of negotiation, thus opening the path of dialogue on the future of Nigeria,” they said.

Archbishop Emmanuel Chukwuma (Anglican Communion), Enugu
“This will win the hearts of all and lead to a better rapport between the political leaders and the people in the future. A militarist and high-handed approach may win the peace of the mortuary and graveyard, but it cannot win the hearts and minds of the people.

“We, therefore, urge all, in the name of God, to join hands and work hard to restore trust, confidence and calm in South East Nigeria. Growth and development in our region cannot be achieved through intimidation, mass murder and destruction. All those who are still preventing people from going about their legitimate businesses by enforcing a sit-at-home order, for which no group now claims responsibility, are therefore called upon to desist from doing so.

“In the same vein, we enjoin all our sons and daughters, especially those in the diaspora, to make responsible use of the social media. This very powerful instrument that modern technology has placed in our hands should be used to build up, not to destroy; to dispel ignorance and spread love, not to spread falsehood, create fear and panic.

“We equally ask the security agencies to be professional in their efforts to ensure the maintenance of law and order in the region.”

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