By Abuchi Onwumelu
Awka Diocesan faithful, priests and religious, Sunday, 8 March, shut down Awka, the capital city of the state, in a peaceful protest against what they called extreme insecurity, abductions and killing of innocent and hapless Nigerians.
The faithful, dressed in black, and led by the Catholic bishop of Awka Diocese, His Lordship, Most Rev. Paulinus Ezeokafor, condemned what they called the brutal killing of innocent Nigerians and the high level of insecurity in the country. They also called for the attention of the Muhammed Buhari-led government, security agencies and the international organisations, to halt continued violence.
The march, which started from Alex Ekwueme Square, terminated at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, along Arthur Eze Avenue. The protesters, who recited the Holy Rosary as they marched, also sang songs, expressing their demands for a safer society.
Speaking during the protest, Bishop Ezeokafor said: ‘We are protesting against the brutal killing of innocent Nigerians by Boko Haram and terrorist herdsmen. We are gathered to mourn the women, children, babies and men, who have been killed by the terrorists. We are particularly worried about how the terrorists target, abduct and kill seminarians and priests.’
He lamented the poor response of the Nigerian Government to the attacks on defenceless people by Boko Haram, describing government’s response as far below average.
He added: ‘We are gathered to let the Federal Government of Nigeria know that we are tired of hearing from them that Boko Haram has been technically defeated even when they still attack with impunity. The failure to protect innocent people from relentless attacks is evil.
‘The lack of prosecution of terrorists is evil. The other day, we heard that the military had released hundreds of Boko Haram suspects. We also heard some time ago that FG was planning amnesty for Boko Haram suspects who have ravaged Nigeria. The continued silence of the FG is breeding and sowing seeds of mistrust.
‘We call on the International Community to come to the aid of Nigeria. We must see ourselves as a global family in the world. The tears and pains of helpless, persecuted Christians in Nigeria should be given deserved attention.
‘As we march, we want all Catholics in Nigeria and all other well-meaning patriotic Nigerians to stand together to fight this terrorism. We must speak out against government’s insensitivity and poor response. We must work and pray for change to happen in Nigeria.’
Bishop Ezeokafor said that Boko Haram had killed more than 27,000 people, making Nigeria the third most dangerous country after Afghanistan and Iraq on the 2019 Global Terrorism Index.
‘As we entrust our country Nigeria to God, let us also entrust the terrorists into the hands of God. God can change their hearts of stone into hearts of flesh,’ he said.
The protest march was rounded off with Benediction and Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.