• Warn against herdsmen roaming across the country
• Urge presidency to tackle herdsmen with Boko Haram method
In its first plenary session for 2017, Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) on Sunda in Abuja took a swipe at the federal government over its handling of the Southern Kaduna killings perpetuated by Fulani herdsmen.
In a strongly worded criticism of the government, the bishops lampooned the President Muhammadu Buhari administration over what it called deliberate display of 'sentiments' against the people of Southern Kaduna, who are predominantly Christians.
The bishops' conference with the theme: 'Nigeria: Citizenship, Rights and Responsibilities' held that there were instances where the killings and sufferings of Southern Kaduna people showed some religious bias against Christians in tackling the crisis.
CBCN President and Archbishop of Jos, Most Rev Ignatius Kaigama, in his opening address, said: "The lesson to be drawn from the recent Southern Kaduna circle of attacks is that we intentionally, as a nation, hardly get to the root causes of crucial matters.
"Our approach is often lackadaisical, parochial or indifferent tinged with sentiments of ethnicity, regional interests and religious bias instead of patriotism and thus crippling efforts at practical solutions.
"A clear policy followed by concrete and creative measures on how to stop the menace of herdsmen is long expected from the Presidency and yet the herdsmen become so fierce and assertive!
"Could the same zeal used in tackling Boko Haram not be applied? Sambisa forest has fallen, but when will the empires of kidnappers and marauding herdsmen fall?"
Earlier, the Catholic Archbishop of Abuja Metropolitan See, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, in his homily maintained that "the exploits of armed herdsmen continue to cause major concern all over the nation.
"The Southern Kaduna tragedy shows that we need to get to the roots of the problem in its various ramifications. Some pertinent questions need to be asked and answered with sincerity. Who arms the murderers? Who owns the cattle?
"It should be made clear that the system of roaming with animals all over the country is no longer sustainable. People must readjust to keeping their animals within ranches, according to world best practice".
The bishops observed that under the current administration, politics is still being played in a do or die fashion, even as "the nation suffers from a lack of clear direction".
They contended that rather than work towards assisting the needy, elderly and pensioners, the administration has focused more on "pampering those already very well off".
The CBCN however commended the efforts of security agencies, they stated that "sporadic incidents of terrorist attacks make it not yet possible for many people to return to their abandoned homes and villages".
The bishops bemoaned the prevalence of corruption, adding that the level of corruption in the country shows there is doubt if Nigeria can overcome the fight against corruption.
They argued that the popular saying that 'only prayers can solve the problems of Nigeria' may be true in one sense but in another it is not only a fallacy but a passing on of the buck.
"Leaders must therefore not abandon their social responsibilities by amassing incredible wealth, taking from the poor and yet thinking that it is God's duty to care for the poor. There is a raging fire going on and all we say are prayers instead of looking for a bucket of water to quench it."
The bishops said though the church has been experiencing economic downturn, it has continued to intervene in helping the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the North-east and the poor in other parts of the country. The Catholic Church also declared the Pilgrimage Centre of Eucharistic Adoration in Elele, Port Harcourt, Rivers State as a national pilgrimage centre.
The CBCN welcomed the Pope's Representative to Nigeria, Monsignor Javier Fernández Gonzales, to the event.
Governor of Anambra State, Willie Obiano, who spoke on behalf of dignitaries, commended the church for its steadfastness and support for the development of the country.
Dignitaries who attended event included: Governor Obiano of Anambra State, Rochas Okorocha of Imo State, Simon Lalong of Plateau State, former Senate President David Mark, and Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, among others