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.
By Ifeoma Ezenyilimba
Ekwulobia, Aguata LGA, one of the major cities in Anambra State, on Sunday, March 8, stood still for hours, as the Catholics of the new Ekwulobia Diocese, took to the roads and streets of the town in prayer protest against the incessant killings of Christians in Nigeria. The protest was carried out simultaneously by the Catholic dioceses in Anambra State.
The protest march which kicked off from the Aguata Local Government Secretariat to St Joseph's Catholic Cathedral, Ekwulobia, and led by the priests, saw the protesters, who had placards with various inscriptions, dressed in black.
Speaking through the Dean, Isuofia Deanery of the diocese, Rev Fr Simeon Nwankwo, at St Joseph's Cathedral, Ekwulobia, the Church condemned the ruthless activities of the Fulani Herdsmen, the Boko Haram and other bandits across Nigeria, calling on the Federal Government to put an end to their 'murderous and inhuman activities'.
He regretted that Christians were mostly victims of the incessant killings in Nigeria, insisting that the sacredness of human life must be upheld in the country. Fr Nwankwo condemned the protection which the government gave to Moslems in Nigeria, and demanded for equal right to freedom of religion and worship for all Nigerians, noting that Nigeria was a multi-religion state.
The Catholic priest charged Nigerian government officials and politicians to rise up and speak against insecurity and the extent to which killings had ridiculed the sacredness of human life in the country. This was even as he accused them of selling out their conscience for money, instead of speaking against that which was evil.
The Episcopal Vicar of Ekwulobia Region, Very Rev Fr Ignatius Onwuatuegwu, accused the Federal Government of being an accomplice in the spate of insecurity, recalling that the government had neither made any statement against the killings of innocent citizens by Fulani Herdsmen nor prosecuted those behind the acts.
Rev Fr Onwuatuegwu, who is also the administrator of St Joseph's Catholic Cathedral, Ekwulobia, wondered why the herdsmen who ought to guide their cattle with sticks, terrorised Christians with sophisticated weapons and yet the government maintained silence over that.
The priest, who berated the government for lagging in its responsibility of security of life and property said, 'We Catholics embarked on the protest clad in black to say no to human killings and that we can no longer accept the status quo in Nigeria. Black in Christian and Igbo setting signify sorrow, grief and the determination to say no.
'So we say no to human killings. We say no to insecurity. We say no to the murderous activities of the Fulani Herdsmen and Boko Haram. We say no to the forceful takeover of Christian farms and lands by the Fulani terrorists. We, Christians demand equal right to life. Enough is enough'.
Rev Fr Onwuatuegwu noted that the Eucharistic Adoration and Benediction which concluded the prayer protest was to assure the people of God of the lasting strength which they would draw from the Eucharistic Jesus, even when all hope seemed lost.
Speaking to Fides, one of the protesters, who did not want his name in print, said people of some parts of Orumba South LGA had been living in fear, noting that a good number of them no longer went to farms for fear of the Fulani herdsmen. He called on the government to put an end to such inhuman acts.