By Paschal Norbert
ABUJA, FEBRUARY 17, 2023 (CISA)- “This is now the time to reject evil, greater or lesser, and wisely choose good and capable candidates at all levels. Our votes are precious; we must use them well. We encourage all eligible citizens to come out en masse to vote for God-fearing, honest, vibrant, and transparent leaders for a better Nigeria,” implored the Catholic bishops of Nigeria in a statement issued at the end of the first plenary meeting at the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN) from February 11 to 17.
The bishops aware of the high stakes in the forthcoming February 25, 2023, General Elections appealed to Nigerians to be more involved in key public decision-making structures for the realization of the common good while quoting the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which says “responsible citizenship is a virtue and participation in the political process is a moral obligation.”
“One of the potent instruments of participation in the political life of a country is the choice of its leaders. In the face of the daunting challenges facing our nation, we should not give in to hopelessness and despair, or compromise our values in such a manner as to come up with leaders who are neither intended by God nor truly elected by the people. We, as citizens, must learn to make the right choices for good governance to thrive and be sustained,” they stated.
In the statement, the prelates lamented the spate of insecurity in the country while calling on the government to bolster security in homes and institutions, and safeguard the lives and property of the people.
“Increased insecurity has continued to haunt our nation. The Boko Haram insurgents, herdsmen militia, bandits, and the so-called unknown gunmen have continued to unleash terror in different parts of the country. Some communities have been sacked and their inhabitants displaced as a result of the activities of some criminals and some government security agents. Hundreds of lives have been lost in very brutal circumstances and many more have been maimed. Some of our Church personnel have been victims of abduction and killing. Kidnapping for ransom is on the increase such that nowhere seems safe. Highways, homes, and even the sacred precincts of worshipping centres are not spared,” said the bishops while appealing to the public to remain vigilant, law-abiding and shun all forms of violence and criminality.
The bishops also poured cold water on the new naira notes policy. They said the policy has contributed greatly to the slump in the economy, thereby, making the lives of the people extremely difficult.
“Our crumbling national economy has continued to make life difficult and hard for our people. As the value of the Naira continues to decline, the high cost of goods and services, including food items, continues to soar. Still more, the flawed implementation of the cash swap policy, which resulted in a cash crunch, has added to the ordeal, hunger, anger, and frustration of the people. Again, on account of the persisting fuel scarcity, our people spend many hours in long queues under harsh conditions trying to buy fuel at exorbitant prices. As a result of high unemployment and hard-biting economic conditions, many of our brothers and sisters wallow in abject poverty, and many either flee the nation in search of better living conditions or resort to crime and begging to survive,” they lamented.
They appealed to the “Federal Government and its relevant agencies to immediately increase the circulation of new Naira notes and make and implement adequate monetary and other relevant policies that will reduce the suffering and hardship experienced by our people,” and “admonished those who collaborate in hoarding the new currency and petroleum products to desist from such a dastardly act.”
The Catholic bishops of Nigeria urged the youth not to be used as agents of disruption and violence in and after the elections and also appealed to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to ensure that elections are free and fair.
“We urge the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and its officials to ensure that their conducts in the entire electoral process are transparent, honest, and beyond reproach. We continue to enjoin the Commission to make sure that the newly adopted technologies for accreditation, transmission, and collation, are transparently and sincerely deployed and not manipulated to give false results. We equally call on the law enforcement agents, whose primary duty is to enforce law and order and ensure the protection of persons and materials during the elections, to efficiently and professionally carry out their responsibilities without fear, favour, or partiality,” the bishops stated.