Religious Leaders call for restoration of trust, confidence, calm in South East

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Christian Religious Leaders of South East Nigeria

By Benprince Ezeh

THE Christian Religious Leaders of South East Nigeria have appealed to all the people responsible for the killings in the southeast to please stop and restore trust, confidence, and calm before the entire South East descends into anarchy.

In a letter dated October 7, 2021, and signed by Reverend Abraham Nwali, Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN chairman southeast zone, the body said that the tragic plight of Igbo youth, families, and individuals in the entire South East region was now a cause for grave concern for “us all in our local communities and within our various Church bodies”.

“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,” they said.

According to them, the root of all this is the failure of governance at various levels. “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 sectionalised 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 People 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,” they said.

The organisation appealed to the government to provide its citizens with adequate securities as well as jobs.

“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 youths 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.

“As spiritual fathers, we say to you our aggrieved youths: We hear your cry. We understand your anxiety about your present and your future. Therefore, we recommit ourselves to continue doing all within our powers in order to address your concerns, in collaboration with our elected representatives, the private sector and all the other segments of our society.

“We would also like to engage the members of the Indigenous People of Biafra and other separatist groups, to ask them 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. 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 southeast 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.

“We continue to pray and call on all Christians as well as all people of goodwill to join us in praying for peace that is based on justice, fairness, equity, and good governance in Nigeria,” they added.

- Oct. 12, 2021 @ 12:58 GMT |

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