Restore Trust, Confidence, and Calm in
A Passionate Plea by the Christian Religious Leaders of South-East Nigeria
- The tragic plight of our youth, our families and individuals in the entire South East Region is now
a cause for grave concern for us all in our local communities and within our various Church bodies.
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. 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. 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. This,
unfortunately, has not happened.
- The failure in this regard opened the way for ethnic and sectionalist agitations for justice and
fairness. With the increasing divide between the ruling class and the people, and the vacuum created
by an alienating leadership at the Federal, Regional and State levels, separatist bodies emerged and
soon began to win the loyalty of frustrated citizens.
- In the South East of Nigeria, one of such groups, the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), gained
prominence some years ago. Although it was proscribed by the Federal Government in 2017, the group
has continued its agitation for an independent State of Biafra, often leading to heavy military responses
and the loss of lives of many youths. The group is also accused of various killings, many of which it
denies. This situation has created a very dangerous environment, which is being exploited by many
criminal elements who have unleashed a reign of terror on the helpless citizens of the region.
- As religious leaders of this badly battered region, we appeal to all those responsible for the killings
to please stop, before the entire South East descends into anarchy, which will invariably affect the
other parts of the country. We believe that there are still other options besides violence, overmilitarization of the area, and senseless killings.
- We passionately call on the Federal Government to, as a matter of urgency, address the underlying
reason for the agitations, namely, the desire for equity, fairness and good governance in Nigeria, in
order to eliminate, or at least minimize, the separatist agitations, not only in the South East, but
everywhere else in Nigeria.
- We equally appeal to the political leaders of the South East to see themselves as representatives of
the people and to invest all available resources in the security, development of the region, 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. 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 youth 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.
- As spiritual fathers, we say to you our aggrieved youths: We hear your cry. We understand your
anxiety about your present and your future. Therefore, we recommit ourselves to continue doing all
within our powers in order to address your concerns, in collaboration with our elected representatives,
the private sector and all the other segments of our society.
- We would also 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-criminalization and deproscription 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.
- We therefore urge all, in the name of God, to join hands and work hard to restore trust, confidence
and calm in South East Nigeria. Growth and development in our region cannot be achieved through
intimidation, mass murder and destruction. All those who are still preventing people from going about
their legitimate businesses by enforcing a sit-at-home order, for which no group now claims
responsibility, are therefore called upon desist from doing so.
- In the same vein, we enjoin all our sons and daughters, especially those in the diaspora, to make
responsible use of the social media. This very powerful instrument that modern technology has placed
in our hands should be used to build up, not to destroy; to dispel ignorance and spread love, not to
spread falsehood, create fear and panic. We equally ask the security agencies to be professional in their
efforts to ensure the maintenance of law and order in the region.
- We continue to pray and call on all Christians as well as all people of good will to join us in praying
for peace that is based on justice, fairness, equity and good governance in Nigeria.
Most Rev. Dr. Anthony J. V. Obinna Most Rev. Dr. Emmanuel Chukwuma, OON
Catholic Archbishop of Owerri Anglican Archbishop of Enugu
Most Rev. Dr. Chibuzo R. Opoko Most Rev. Dr. Valerian M. Okeke
Methodist Archbishop of Umuahia Catholic Archbishop of Onitsha
Rev. Dr. Abraham Nwali
Chaiman, CAN, South East Zone
7 October 2021