Communique Issued At The End of The Just Concluded Bishops Conference held at Holy ghost Catedral Ogui Road Enugu
A Communiqué issued at the end of the Second Plenary Meeting of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), which held at the Holy Ghost Cathedral, Ogui, Enugu, Enugu State, 19 – 27 August, 2021
We, the Catholic Bishops of Nigeria, held our Second Plenary Meeting for the year at the Holy Ghost Cathedral, Ogui, Enugu, Enugu State, from 19 to 27 August 2021. Having prayerfully reflected on issues affecting the Church and the Nigerian State, we now issue this Communiqué.
- A CALL FOR PROPHETIC WITNESSING, CONVICTION AND RESILIENCE
The present times demand that we listen anew to the Lord’s command to us to be prophetic witnesses (Acts 1:8). A prophet is not merely one who predicts the future, but one who reinterprets the past, explains the will of God for the present, and in this way, shows the right path to the future. As witnesses, we must show clearly and unmistakably that we firmly believe what we are seeking to propose to others; that we are truly living what we believe, courageously preaching what we live and are ready to defend that message, even with our very lives. After all, what is faith if it lacks resilience?
Resilience amidst challenges is however never a call to indolence or mere passivity. As Christians, we are followers of Jesus Christ and should always adopt our Lord’s approach of prayer and concrete action as a strategy for survival. In this wise, we all are called to witness to our faith with conviction wherever we find ourselves: in the Church, at home in the family, in the market places, in the field of politics, and commerce, in public offices and in other areas of life, especially when it is not convenient. We admonish all Christians, while continuing to pray and propose Christian values, to always seek out ways of doing something concrete to make the society better.
- STATE OF THE NATION
Increasing Insecurity and Violence: Respect for the Sanctity of Human Life
We strongly advocate total respect for the sanctity of human life. Regrettably, except for the civil war, our nation has never witnessed the kind of widespread evil, wanton destruction and murderous bloodletting. Life has never been so cheap, nor has Nigeria ever been at the stage we are now. Deaths in the hands of kidnappers, killer herdsmen, bandits, terrorist groups have made Nigeria one of the most terrorized countries in the world.
The abductions of school children present us with the prospects of a traumatized generation of young people. We recognize the efforts being made by Government to fight insecurity in the land. However, we stress that Government needs to show more strategic commitment and sincerity in this fight and take full responsibility for the present culture of violence and impunity in the country.
Furthermore, Government must be balanced and seen to be so in its response to the challenges of insecurity in every segment of the citizenry. In the same vein, we call on all citizens to be law-abiding, vigilant, live by sound moral principles and, above all, obey the commandments of God. We continue to plead with all to shun violence and criminality. We urge Government at all levels to provide the enabling environment that would make it possible for both the Government and the private sector to create job opportunities for our teeming youth population. This would surely reduce the danger of insecurity and unrest in our land.
National Unity, Justice, Peace and Development
We are grateful to God that we still exist as one nation. This is in spite of sundry agitations and struggles for self-determination. We observe that the agitations and tensions are mainly as a result of bad governance, injustice, inequity, and unfairness in appointments and distribution of resources to parts of the country. We recognize the rights of peoples to self-determination; yet we emphasize that the exercise of such rights must be within the confines of the rule of law. We urge the Government to ensure a just and fair trial of the arrested key players in the struggles.
To mismanage these cases is to trigger off further avoidable unrest. We urge both Government and citizens to work for a nation in which everyone and every part, irrespective of differences of tribe or religion or political affiliation, will have a sense of belonging. We reiterate that the struggle for the ‘soul’ of Nigeria, that is presently ongoing, will not be won by ethnic cleansing, nepotism, kidnapping and banditry but by love, fairness and equity, common good and patriotism.
We therefore enjoin Government and all Nigerians to toe the path of justice and conciliatory dialogue and see themselves as agents of peace and development in order to ensure a harmonious and united nation. While we congratulate the Federal Government for enacting the Petroleum Industry Act 2021, we advise that the Federal Government address the genuine concerns of the people regarding some clauses in the Act. It is our hope that the implementation of the provisions of the law will truly serve the common good.
Politics and Electoral Reform
We as Church are keenly interested in the political situation of our country. Although the Church does not support any political party, but she supports every Government that prioritizes the welfare of the citizens. In the same way, the Church vehemently condemns Government policies that do not promote development and the common good. We insist that there is an urgent need for a fair and credible electoral process, through which our political leaders emerge. We therefore state loud and clear that the recent voting by the National Assembly against electronic transmission of results of elections will create opening for further manipulation of electoral votes and lay the foundation for more conflicts in future elections. We call on the National Assembly to reconsider its position in the light of world best practices.
- CELEBRATING THE HOLY EUCHARIST, THE MYSTERY OF FAITH
The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council rightly proclaimed the Eucharist as the source and summit of the Christian life (Lumen Gentium 11). This makes the Eucharist central to the life of the Church. The heart of the mystery of the Church is in the Eucharist (Ecclesia de Eucharistia 1), the mystery of faith. This mystery of faith certainly deserves to be celebrated with untainted faith, deep love and manifest devotion, always taking care that monetary matters do not distract the faithful or detract from the solemnity of the celebration.
We therefore urge priests to show and grow their commitment to the Eucharist. They are to celebrate the Eucharist as “servants” of the mystery and not “masters” of it. As servants, priests are called to the consciousness that adding or subtracting from the approved Missal text does not build up the faith of the people. We exhort our priests to intensify their efforts in making adequate preparation of themselves and of the people. In celebrating the Holy Eucharist with great reverence, devotion and love, the people are nourished in the Word of God and their faith is strengthened by a worthy reception of the Holy Communion.
- INTENSIFYING CATECHESIS AND EVANGELIZATION
Regardless of our challenges, all of us are called to take part in the missionary “going forth” to encounter the men and women of our time where they are. But for that to happen, it is incumbent on all Christians to make an unconditional option for Christ even in critical times such as the ones we are passing through today. Flight from God, the jettisoning or watering down of the Gospel values, resort to violence through revenge killings and reprisal attacks and a return to fetishism and idolatry in the face of difficulties can never constitute enduring solutions. For as the Psalmist sings, “Those who choose other gods increase their sorrows” (Ps. 16:4).
That is why it is now all the more imperative for all teachers of the faith but especially, Bishops, Priests and Religious, employing the use of the communications media, homilies, relevant literature, catechisms and other wholesome strategies, to rededicate themselves to intensified catechesis and the evangelization of our people. Indeed, all teachers of the faith have a duty to challenge the faithful to embrace the Gospel in its totality with an exemplary witness of life rooted in Christ as well as fidelity to Him in the living out of the temporal realities: the family, culture, professional commitment in the world of work, science and research, the exercise of social, economic and political responsibilities.
- THE NEED FOR INTEGRAL CATHOLIC EDUCATION
The primary goal of Catholic education is not just to prepare people for earthly life but also for salvation as well. The youths learn about God who wants us to develop all our capacities until we become our best selves as a way of giving glory to him. It is when we focus our energies on knowing and serving God that we become our best selves and are able to make positive impact on society (Gravissimum Educationis, 4).
We call on Catholic educators to understand that the way a person chooses to exercise his or her knowledge is as important as having knowledge itself. Therefore, we encourage character development, instilling in all learners, ethical values that ultimately guide their decision-making process from their personal, everyday behaviour to their chosen career paths. Moral conduct as dictated by Christian principles is to be built into the very fabric of school culture.
Following the example of Jesus Christ, students should be drawn to model Christian behaviour by respecting the dignity of each individual and be encouraged to express their faith in word, thought, and deed. Above all, Catholic education should focus on forming compassionate and just leaders who are prepared to rise up to and confront the complexities of the ever-changing Nigerian society. Young people who go to our schools should receive solid and quality academic foundations, spiritual fortitude, strong moral convictions, and the desire to be actively engaged in their communities.
- EVENTS IN THE CHURCH
The 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops comes up between October 2021 and October 2023 with the theme: For a Synodal Church, Communion, Participation and Mission. Prior to this, the 52nd International Eucharistic Congress, Budapest, holds between 5 and 12 September 2021. A little later, the Year of St. Joseph, which is ongoing, will be concluded on 8 December 2021.
On 10 May 2021, Pope Francis, in his Motu Proprio, Antiquum Ministerium (Ancient Ministry) established the lay ministry of Catechist. We, the Catholic Bishops of Nigeria, welcome with joy and enthusiasm this newly instituted ministry. As shepherds of God’s flock, we commit ourselves to making fruitful and viable this ministry for the building up of the Body of Christ and promoting the mission of the Church in the world. Furthermore, we enjoin dioceses to put in place a policy for just remuneration of catechists and pastoral care of retired, old and sick Catechists.
With joyful exultation, we note the steady growth of the Church in Nigeria. Ogoja Diocese has celebrated the Centenary of the arrival of the Catholic Faith. Similarly, Abuja Archdiocese celebrates 40 years of its existence as an independent territory and Port Harcourt Diocese celebrates the Diamond Jubilee of its canonical erection.
The Holy Father, Pope Francis, made the following appointments since our last plenary meeting: Bishop Michael Ukpong, Auxiliary Bishop of Umuahia, (30 May 2020); Bishop Luka Sylvester Gopep, Auxiliary Bishop of Minna, (9 December 2020); Bishop David Ajang, Bishop of Lafia, (31 March 2021); and Bishop Peter Nworie Chukwu, Bishop of Abakaliki, (6 July 2021). We welcome these our brother Bishops into the Conference, assuring them of our prayerful support.
We rejoice with and congratulate those of our members who have attained great milestones in their lives. The following celebrate their golden jubilee as Bishops this year: Most Rev. Felix Alaba Job, Archbishop Emeritus of Ibadan; Anthony Cardinal Olubunmi Okogie, Archbishop Emeritus of Lagos; Most Rev. Patrick Ekpu, Archbishop Emeritus of Benin City; Most Rev. Joseph Edra Ukpo, Archbishop Emeritus of Calabar; and Most Rev. Michael Olatunji Fagun, Bishop Emeritus of Ekiti.
With firm faith in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, we announce the passing unto glory of some of our brother Bishops who served the Church and humanity with total dedication: Archbishop Peter Yariyok Jatau, Archbishop Emeritus of Kaduna (16 December 2020); Bishop Gregory Ochiagha, Bishop Emeritus of Orlu (19 December 2020); and Bishop Albert Ayinde Fasina, Bishop Emeritus of Ijebu-Ode (29 June 2021). We pray Almighty God to grant them eternal rest in his Kingdom. Amen.
- CONCLUSION: LET US HOPE IN GOD FOR A BETTER NIGERIA
As Christians, we are called to constantly hope in God who never fails. The virtue of hope enables us to seek eternal happiness and union with God and happiness on earth as we place our trust in Christ’s promise and rely not on our strength and ingenuity but on the strength and grace of the Holy Spirit (Catechism of the Catholic Church no. 1817). We therefore call on Nigerians to hope for a better Nigeria knowing full well that without hope we as a people cannot move forward.
No matter how difficult the times are, no matter the situation we may find ourselves, let us continue to hope in God and feel secure because our hope will not disappoint us (Rom 5:5). We however need to cooperate with God to attain the better days for which we pray and hope. We ask that, on October 1 every year, parishes all over the country hold a candlelight procession and pray twenty decades of the rosary for peace and unity of our country.
May the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of all consolation and Queen of Nigeria continue to intercede for our country. Amen.
THE CHURCH AND PROPHETIC WITNESSING IN NIGERIA
“And you shall be my witnesses . . . even to the remotest parts of the world” (Acts 1:8)
Most Rev. Augustine Obiora AKUBEZE,
President, CBCN – Archbishop of Benin City
Most Rev. Camillus Raymond UMOH
Secretary, CBCN – Bishop of Ikot Ekpene
Two suspected armed robbers who target bank customers nabbed in Delta state.
Two suspected armed robbers have been apprehended in Agbor, Ika South Local Government Area, Delta State, by the Agbor Gha-Ihun Security outfit.
According to reports, the arrest follows reports of customers being robbed after withdrawing money from various banks.
On October 13, the suspects, identified as Smart and Oluchukwu from Imo State, were apprehended near a bank while preparing to rob their victims of their money.
During interrogation, one of the suspects, Smart, admitted to being arrested previously after one of his failed missions.
“We are from Imo State and our mission is to steal. I am a father of two children. My wife and children are in Imo State. Some time ago, I caught by Agbor Youth Vigilante Group on one of my failed missions along Baleke market area. Oluchukwu and I started working together since this week. We feel bad that luck has run out on us,” he said.
Comrade Monday Kiyem, chairman of Agbor Gha-Ihun, told journalists that his team was on their way to a meeting with bank managers in Orogodo metropolis when they apprehended Smart and Oluchuwu at the arena of Bank, opposite Okoh Street in Agbor, while they were waiting for their victims.
“Barely five months ago, we apprehended Smart after one of his failed missions. It took our intervention that he escaped death as he was given the beating of his life.
“Smart escaped being jailed because nobody was standing for the case. Being an unrepentant thief, he has returned to stealing. Now, we will ensure that justice take its course.”
While stating that security is everybody’s business, Comrade Kiyem urged Ika residents especially those living in Orogodo metropolis to beef up security by reporting the hideout of criminals in their area.
“It will interest you to know that these evil perpetrators are not from Agbor. They are from either Anambra or Imo State. Before, we use to have two groups of kidnappers, they were the Fulani and Alifikede, but we were able to wipe them out,” he said.
“We want everyone to cooperate with us by giving us useful information on any suspicious movement within and outside the bank premises and within the residential areas. Our people have lost a lot of money and we don’t want that to happen again. Our sole responsibility is to protect lives and property. Our people have continued to allege that those encouraging this evil act are within the bank. Anybody caught will be severely punished.”
READ ALSO:Two Nigerian men sentenced to 40 years in jail for robbery in Ghana.
Sack workers over the age of 50, and levy anyone earning more than N30,000, Governors tells Buhari
To avert the country’s impending economic collapse, Nigerian governors have advised the federal government to retire all federal civil servants over the age of 50.
The governors also want the government to raise taxes across the board and levy anyone earning N30,000 or more per month.
The governors made the proposal during a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari
The proposal also urged the government to begin implementing the updated Stephen Oronsaye Report, which advocated for the merger and closure of agencies and parastatals with duplicated or contested functions in order to address bureaucratic inefficiency and lower the cost of governance.
Officials familiar with the meeting’s details said the governors were concerned about the state of the economy and presented the federal government with a proposal to restore fiscal discipline.
The federal civil service employs approximately 89,000 people but will spend approximately N4.1 trillion on personnel costs this year, out of a total N17 trillion budget for the country. It is unclear how many workers are over 50, or how much money they receive.
The suggestion comes as signs emerge that the country may be on the verge of economic collapse.
According to the online publication, Nigeria’s external reserves are only $15 billion, far less than the bank’s claimed $36 billion balance on gross external reserves. With the country spending N5.9 trillion on imports in the first three months of the year, $15 billion in reserves would barely cover four months of imports.
Last week, it was revealed that the balance in Nigeria’s Excess Crude Account had been significantly depleted, falling from $35.37 million to $376,655, leaving the country with no buffers to stabilize the economy and its currency. Another sign that the country was bankrupt recently emerged when debt service exceeded revenue.
According to details of the 2022 fiscal performance report for January through April, Nigeria’s total revenue stood at N1.63 trillion while debt servicing stood at N1.94 trillion, showing a variance of over N300 billion.
The governors advised the federal government to immediately reduce expenditure by eliminating petrol subsidies and NNPC-funded projects, to cap the Social Investment Programme (SIP) and National Poverty Reduction with Growth Strategy (NPRGS) budgets at N200 billion, to eliminate extra-constitutional deductions from FAAC, and to reduce SWV items for SDG and NASS Constituency projects.
According to sources, the governors also requested that the government reduce duplications (e.g., empowerment programs) and waste, reduce the one percent grant to NASENI to 0.2 percent, amend the Act in the 2022 Finance Bill, reduce personnel costs of federal government MDAs, and expedite the privatization of non-performing assets such as the NDPHC power plants.
Similarly, the governors urged that the 2023-2025 MTEF reflect the governors’ recommendations and the government’s commitment to restoring fiscal discipline, while the planned 22 percent salary increase in 2023 be reconsidered. They also stated that the fiscal deficit should be kept to no more than 2% of GDP in 2023-2025.
Foreign Exchange and Reserves
To conserve foreign exchange and increase reserves, the governors proposed that MDAs, including budgetary-independent agencies such as FIRS, NPA, NIMASA, and NCC, postpone foreign trips for at least one year.
They also urged the Ministry of Foreign Affairs not to issue Visa requests to foreign embassies for federal government officials and their families unless the presidency expressly approves.
The governors also proposed shifting from state income taxation to consumption taxation, arguing that with the implementation of a 3 percent federal income tax, state-level PIT should be eliminated.
Similarly, they proposed enacting state sales taxes (at a flat rate of 10%) for the 36 states and the FCT, increasing VAT levels to 10% with a timeline to raise it to 15% to 20%, and re-introducing and passing VAT into the Exclusive List. It was unclear whether all governors agreed with the move of VAT to the exclusive list.
To increase tax revenue, they proposed that the federal government impose a flat 3 percent Federal Personal Income Tax on all Nigerians earning more than N30,000 per month, with those earning less than N30,000 per month, whether employed or not, paying a monthly FPIT of N100.
Similarly, telecom companies and the NIMC should work together to ensure that this is deducted from individuals’ phone credit and linked to their NIN and BVN
The governors also proposed that all federal oil and non-oil taxes be collected by a single agency, the FIRS, while Customs, the NPA, and others assess and issue demands.
They proposed that the Federal Government increase crude oil and gas production, resolve lingering issues of gas ownership in PSCs (e.g., Nnwa-Doro, OML 129) to help position Nigeria to take advantage of European gas needs, and provide incentives to accelerate development of vandalism-resistant deep offshore fields such as Bonga SW (Shell), Preweoi (Total), Zabazaba (ENI), and Owowo (Exxon).
The governors also advised the government to encourage (and, if necessary, pre-finance) the Dangote Refinery’s early completion in order to reduce massive future outflows of foreign exchange.
READ ALSO: FULL ADDRESS: As President Buhari Presents To The National Assembly a N16.39 trillion Naira 2022 Budget
Festus Keyamo: Federal Government Cannot Borrow N1.1 Trillion to End ASUU Strike
Festus Keyamo, Minister of State for Labour and Employment, said on Friday that borrowing money to end the Academic Staff Union of Universities’ months-long strike was unrealistic.
He made the remark during an appearance on one the television channels.
“Should we borrow to pay N1.2 trillion a year?”
“You cannot allow one sector of the economy to hold you hostage and then blackmail you into borrowing N1.2 trillion for overheads when our total income would be around N6.1 trillion.” And you have to build roads, health centers, and other sectors.”
The Minister urged parents throughout the country to petition ASUU.
“Those who know them, like the President said the other time, appeal to their sense of patriotism,” he said.
“Let them go back to school.” They are not alone in Nigeria. They are not the only ones who benefit from federal funds. The nation cannot come to a halt because we want to meet ASUU’s demands.”
On February 14, ASUU began a four-week warning strike.
On March 14, the union extended the strike for another two months in order to allow the government to meet all of its demands. On May 9, a 12-week extension was announced.
The union has been on strike since May 9, vowing to continue until its demands are met.
Academics want better working conditions, the revitalization of public universities, and academic autonomy, among other things.
One point of contention for academics is the non-payment of N1.1 trillion in university revitalisation funds.
However, the Federal Government has stated that it does not have the funds to pay such a sum, citing low oil prices during the administration of Muhammadu Buhari.
According to reports, the agreement was reached in 2009.
Another issue is the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS).
The University Transparency and Accountability Solution was proposed by academics as an alternative payroll system (UTAS).