Bishops of Catholic Church have warned President Muhammadu Buhari that he is “frittering away the high hopes” that Nigerians “invested in his resolve to turn things around”.
The clerics said this on Thursday in a statement issued at the end of their conference in Akure, Ondo state capital.
Commenting on some of the challenges in the country, they urged Buhari not to dismiss the call for restructuring.
They also called on the president to pay close attention to the “strong” allegations of nepotism levelled against him.
“We call on our president to wake up to the fact that most Nigerians are today disillusioned by the frittering away of the high hopes which they invested in his resolve to turn things around,” the statement read.
“The president can no longer safely ignore the very strong allegations of a rise in nepotism and sectionalism in federal appointments. This has further deepened the feelings of alienation and the rise of centrifugal forces that are threatening the foundations of our unity.
“One-sided appointments into public office have displayed a tendency towards a form of sectionalism that we have found difficult to associate with the high moral credentials of the president. A hurricane of violence by herdsmen and other agents of death has left in its wake a landscape of blood and destruction.
“Political violence, corruption, kidnappings, armed robbery, ritual murders and all ills of the past, are still very much present and we seem to be progressively sinking deeper into the mud. Our people are now ravaged by disease and hunger. The result is the rise in the curve of violence both by the state agents and non-state actors among our own people.
“We wish to state firmly that the debate about the restructuring of our country should not be seen as an act of rebellion or as a call for division. It should rather be seen as an expression of our people’s desire that the political class return to the fine principles of democracy such as true federalism, negotiation and consensus building as means of achieving a more equitable distribution of the resources of our country.”
They recalled how the president promised to be fair to all, in the buildup to the election.
“We recall that in his address to us, the Catholic Bishops of Nigeria, on 11 February 2015, General Buhari, as a presidential candidate, stated among other things: ‘Government has no business preferring one religion to the other.
“’The role of government is to protect lives and properties of citizens and to respect and protect their constitutional rights. One critical right that every government must seek to protect is the right of citizens to exercise their respective faiths, Christians and Muslims or others, in a lawful manner without fear or hindrance and to prosecute those who use religion as an excuse to destroy homes, schools, and places of worship. When governments fail in that duty, they must then assist in the rebuilding of the structures including destroyed places of worship and giving full restitution to property’.
“As things now stand, most Nigerians do not see a government committed to attaining these stated objectives. Furthermore, we find the calls for the expansion of the scope of Sharia law in public life at variance with the letter and spirit of the Nigerian Constitution.”
The bishops pledged support for the anti-graft war of the current administration, but warned against the violation of the rule of law.
They also commended the president for the success recorded in the fight against insurgency, and advised him work with Nigerians from “diverse background” in the bid to restore the glory of the country.
“Again, after we successfully contained Boko Haram’s murderous escapade, we had hoped that our nation would witness a massive programme of national rebirth and that the president would work assemble a cross section of patriotic citizens from diverse backgrounds to commence a programme of national rebirth and reconstruction,” they said.
“Finally, we acknowledge that our current woes did not begin with this administration. We also support the President’s genuine resolve and efforts through the various government agencies to tackle corruption. Nonetheless, we reiterate that this must not be at the expense of civil liberties and the rule of law. The President must ensure that Nigerians do not feel that our country is sliding back into dictatorship.”