Christian leaders in the South East have blamed the emergence of separatist agitations in the country on lack of equity and fairness.
They also explained why the Federal Government should grant amnesty to members of separatist groups, saying it would encourage them to embrace dialogue rather than resort to violence which has led to the loss of lives and property.
“With the return to constitutional democracy in 1999, our people had looked forward to a national sense of belonging and the restoration of equity and fairness in dealing with all segments of Nigeria,” said the Christian leaders in a jointly-signed communique released recently. “This, unfortunately, has not happened.
“The failure, in this regard, opened the way for ethnic and sectionalist agitations for justice and fairness. We would like to engage the members of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra and other separatist groups, to ask them to eschew all violent activities.
“But we cannot reasonably do this as long as any of them is proscribed as a terrorist group. We, therefore, call on the Federal Government to consider granting amnesty to IPOB and other separatist groups. We believe that the de-criminalisation and de-proscription of these groups would lead them to embrace the democratic and non-violent means of negotiation, thus opening the path of dialogue on the future of Nigeria.
“This will win the hearts of all and lead to a better rapport between the political leaders and the people in the future. A militarist and high-handed approach may win the peace of the mortuary and graveyard, but it cannot win the hearts and minds of the people.”
‘No Longer Tolerable’
The communique titled ‘A Passionate Plea by the Christian Religious Leaders of South East Nigeria’ was signed by the Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in the region, Reverend Abraham Nwali, and four others.
They are Most Reverend Anthony Obinna (Catholic Archbishop of Owerri), Most Reverend Emmanuel Chukwuma (Anglican Archbishop of Enugu), Most Reverend Chibuzo Opoko (Methodist Archbishop of Umuahia), Most Reverend Valerian Okeke (Catholic Archbishop of Onitsha).
The religious leaders decried the killings and destruction of properties in the region, as well as the tragic plight of the youth which they said have become a major cause for grave concern.
For them, the government at various levels ought to be held responsible for the present situation in the region where its people used to be known for good reasons.
“The level of violence and insecurity in our land is no longer tolerable. A land where people have always been known for their industry, entrepreneurship, and creativity is now living in crippling fear,” the statement said.
“Our land is soaked with blood and a gloomy cloud hangs in the air. This cannot be allowed to go on. Whereas some may be content with analysing only the immediate causes of this situation, we would prefer to point out that at the root of all this is the failure of governance at various levels.”
‘Cries For Help’
The Christian leaders stated that despite proscribing the group, IPOB has continued its agitation for an independent state of Biafra, often leading to heavy military responses and the loss of lives of many youths.
According to them, the situation has created a very dangerous environment that is being exploited by criminals who have unleashed a reign of terror on the helpless citizens of the region.
As religious leaders in the South East, the bishops appealed to all those responsible for the killings to stop in order to prevent the region from slipping into anarchy that would affect other parts of the country.
Stressing that there were other options besides violence, over-militarisation, and senseless killings, they called on the Federal Government to urgently address the underlying reason for the agitations which was the desire for equity, fairness, and good governance in Nigeria.
They also appealed to political leaders in the region to see themselves as representatives of the people and invest all available resources in the security, development, and creation of jobs.
“It ought to be remembered that all these agitations are cries for help by people, many of whom have invested time, energies, and resources in education and learning a trade, yet they cannot find gainful employment,” said the communique dated October 7. “Our political leaders must do something to reduce the huge gulf between their personal welfare and that of the people at large.
“In a special way, we urge that, since the youths are our strength and hope as a nation in our various regions and states, extra attention, care, and sacrifice need to be expended, in order to win back their confidence and trust in government.
“They ought to be given the opportunity to participate constructively and productively in the delicate task of nation-building.”