COMMUNIQUE ISSUED BY THE CATHOLICS BISHOPS OF LAGOS ECCLESIASTICAL PROVINCE (LEP) AT THE END OF THEIR FIRST PLENARY MEETING HELD AT ST AGNES CATHOLIC CHURCH, MARYLAND ON WEDNESDAY JANUARY 16, 2019.
We, the Catholic Bishops of the Lagos Ecclesiastical Province, comprising of Lagos Archdiocese, Ijebu Ode and Abeokuta Dioceses held our first plenary meeting for the year 2019 at St. Agnes Catholic Church, Maryland, Lagos. Having undertaken a careful appraisal of some of the major issues facing the Church in our province and the enormity of challenges facing our country Nigeria, we hereby issue the following Communique:
(1) Gratitude for a New Year
We thank the Almighty God for the grace to survive the numerous thorny paths that characterized better part of last year, 2018 and for the gift of the New Year 2019. The New Year opens the door for yet a new beginning for all of God's children to draw nearer their creator, shun sin and make haste to embrace true reconciliation that is available in the sacrament of penance. We thank the good Lord for the gift of the Mother Church, means through which forgiveness and salvation is open to everyone who is ready and willing to embrace the path of holiness and drink from the inexhaustible water of life; the unblemished word of God. We pray that the New Year, 2019 will offer a new vista of life for all of God's children. We call on all God children to draw closer to Christ so as to experience the joy of the Lord and the grace of the sacraments as well as the intercession of Mary, Mother of God, the Mediatrix of all graces and the Queen of Nigeria.
(2) Election Year, 2019
We note that 2019, being an election year, is a very delicate year for Nigerians and our dear country, Nigeria. We call on all eligible Nigerians to carry out their civic responsibility and participate actively in the forthcoming elections. In spite of the difficulties being faced, all who have registered should pick up their Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) and refuse the temptation of selling their voters cards for any amount of money. We should all vote and elect only credible, God fearing and qualified candidates with the requisite expertise to turn around, for good, the fortunes of this great nation Nigeria. We call on the eligible voters not to allow themselves to be induced to sell their votes but to vote according their conscience and ensure that they defend their votes so that they can truly count.
We say no to electoral rigging, thuggery and intimidation. Free and fair, elections should be the watch word for INEC. All contesting candidates should be allowed a level playing ground to test their popularity so that at the end of the day, the will of the majority of Nigerians would prevail at the polls. In the same vein, we call on the Security Agencies to ensure that they are not used by any political party to intimidate or short-circuit the electoral process.
(3) Catholics in Politics
We reiterate our call for more Catholic lay faithful to get involved and be active participants in the political space beginning at the grassroots, the ward level. We encourage all to deepen their Christian formation by availing themselves of the values inherent in the Social Teaching of the Church so that they can be prepared adequately for good governance and therefore help to effect positive changes in the polity.
We affirm that the numerous challenges facing the nation such as corruption, nepotism, incompetence, injustice and numerous other vices that have since taken the centre stage of our national life, would have been reduced drastically were there more God-fearing people especially Catholics with heightened spirituality at the helm of affairs in the public service. The elections this year 2019 should therefore serve as a wake-up call for more Catholics to come out en-mass and be active in party political activities.
(4) Curbing Insecurity & Killings
Last year 2018 was largely characterized by insecurity across several parts of the country but especially in the North Central and the North East. The Boko Haram sect continued to terrorize the nation, killing and maiming innocent Nigerians, including soldiers. Kidnappings and ritual killings were at an all-time high as many Nigerians, including the clergy and religious were randomly abducted by gun men with little help in sight. In this election year, we note with dismay the persistent rise in incidents of Yahoo boys activities and ritual killings, casting fear and apprehension in the minds of law-abiding citizens. We therefore call on Security Agencies saddled with the task of safeguarding the lives and properties of Nigerian citizens to double up their efforts in putting an end to insecurity in the land. We call for the strengthening of all security apparatus and the procurement of adequate arms and ammunitions and other equipment needed by the military to successfully exterminate all forms of hostilities in the country before the commencement of the national elections.
In recent times, there have been allegations of corruption in the procurement of arms and ammunitions. Soldiers fighting the Boko Haram are said to have been exposed to danger due to inadequate or obsolete equipment at their disposal. We call on government to ensure that those allegations are not disregarded but that they are investigated properly and whoever may be indicted be punished according to the laws of the land. This is the least we can do to encourage the young men and women who put their lives on the line for the security of their fellow Nigerians.
In this election year, we reinforce our call for all to intensify their prayers for peaceful elections. We believe in the unity of this country and call on those nursing divisive ideas to have a change of mind and allow the plans of the Almighty for this country to manifest seamlessly. We abhor war or shedding of innocent blood because life is sacred. We also call on the political class and their ardent supporters to embrace peace before, during and after the elections. Politics should never be a do-or-die affair, but a call to serve. At the end of all the electoral activities, may the wishes of the people be allowed to prevail.
We therefore commit the affairs of this great country and our individual affairs into the loving hands of our Mother Mary, the Queen of Peace and Patroness of Nigeria. May she continue to intercede for us. Amen.
Archbishop Alfred Adewale Martins
Archbishop of Lagos and President, LEP Bishops' Conference
Bishop Peter Odetoyinbo
Bishop of Abeokuta Diocese and Secretary, LEP Bishops' Conference