The Bishops of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) have issued a pastoral letter addressing the state of Nigeria economy, corruption, religious and sectarian violence, and the neglected state of the nation's infrastructure and educational services.
From the House of Bishops Of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) Meeting at the Ibru Centre, Agbarha-Otor, Delta State January 3rd -9th, 2011
The House of Bishops of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) met under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the leadership of the Most Rev. Nicholas D. Okoh, Archbishop, Metropolitan and Primate of All Nigeria for our annual retreat at the Ibru Centre, Agbarha-Otor, Delta State, from January 3rd-9th, 2011. 158 bishops were present. We were blessed by the opportunity to spend time together for prayer, worship and teaching at this beginning of a New Year filled with opportunities and challenges.
The theme of our retreat was ‘A Living Sacrifice’ (Romans 12:1). The Bible studies, led by Bishop Zac Niringiye from the Anglican Church of Uganda, and the various teaching sessions all emphasized the critical importance of surrendering ourselves fully to God’s will and purpose if we are to show the world the power of transformed and dedicated men and women of God. We were challenged to see that so often our failure to live a sacrificial life robs the world of the witness and presence of a church that is able to offer genuine hope to people who are desperately in need of such a testimony. We were reminded again that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a total commitment and affects every aspect of our daily lives including our marriages and families, our stewardship of the resources entrusted to us, and our attitude towards those in authority and those who are in need.
Meeting together as bishops of the Church of Nigeria in Delta State during the rerun of the contested election for Governor of the State we were very conscious of living at a time of great tension in our nation. The ability to conduct a free and fair election, an essential and necessary condition for the future of democracy in our nation, has been seriously compromised by the breakdown in basic security on the roads and in our communities. We are concerned that those who have no credible or hopeful project for our beloved nation may have engineered this breakdown and we urge Federal and State officials to be on ‘red alert’ and be in firm control to ensure a peaceful transition.
The Christmas time bombings in Jos and Abuja and the recent killings in Maiduguri are yet further examples that we are in the middle of a deadly struggle for the soul and survival of our nation. We condemn these terrible acts of violence. We grieve with all those who lost loved ones and we pray for those who were injured or terrorized by these calculated acts of violence. We commend the Federal Government’s first moves to offer comfort and assistance to those who were hurt and we urge that all steps be taken to ensure that everything be done to bring the culprits to book immediately to forestall further deterioration of our security situation.
Meeting in Delta State also reminded us that the inequities and abuses that have led to the rise of disaffected groups in this region that have committed numerous militant acts remain a present reality. We are grateful for the National initiatives that have sought to bring reconciliation and peace but are concerned that many of these programs are not reaching the people for whom the help was planned. Too often local government structures fail to utilize the resources as intended and instead redirect the funds to other purposes. We urge all local officials to be true to their responsibilities and transparent in their dealings.
We remind the Federal Government of its repeated promises to improve the power sector and road network since these are the bedrock of industrialization and an essential component of Vision 202020. Now is the time to match words with actions. We commend the steps taken by the Central Bank of Nigeria to restore investor confidence with their bank reform policies and urge all concerned to implement the budget transparently so that hope can be restored for ordinary citizens.
We are disappointed and worried over the protracted closure of the South East State Universities following the industrial action by University staff. We appeal to the Governors to ensure that the differences with the staff are resolved quickly to enable the students resume their studies. Further delay could be dangerous.
We note with interest the expedited decision and action by the Federal Government of Nigeria to educate the Almajiri children in the country. This is a laudable project to address the education needs of the underprivileged sections of society. However, we believe that instead of an entirely new school structure, the Almajiris could be accommodated in an already existing structure, the UBE. The main reason for this view: the Almajiris need to reintegrate into society and socialize with other children of different backgrounds, in order to acquire a broader view of life, and appreciate the interdependency we enjoy in a multi-cultural and religiously plural society such as ours. Besides, the Government will have to pay attention to the special needs of other religious bodies. Is there still any justification for forbidding the teaching of Christian Religious Knowledge in public schools in some parts of the country? What about the vex issue of return of schools to the mission?
As the date for national elections rapidly approaches we are also concerned that preparations are far from adequate. We call on INEC (Independent National Electoral Commission) to redouble their efforts and also communicate more fully their plans for this crucial event in our national life. We urge all politicians to bring an end to political assassinations and violence and demonstrate Godly restraint in their electioneering.
The recent disclosure by the Governor of the Central Bank that twenty five percent of our National Overhead Expenditures is currently spent on the National Assembly is an outrage. At a time when all aspects of our national infrastructure cry out for adequate funding and many of our people live in abject poverty the news that government officials are swelling their own accounts is unconscionable. We call on our political leaders to seek the common good instead of their own comfort and be sacrificial in their service to this nation.
This catalogue of concerns reflects not only our love for our nation and all its people but also our conviction that strong, honest, visionary leadership is vital if we are to give our people the hope that they deserve. We are a gifted and blessed nation with enormous potential. We have amazing God-given resources and talented people capable of exercising not only national leadership but also taking their rightful place on the global stage. We continue to trust in the God who has promised that He will lead us into glorious future.
Now … to him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy — to the only God our Saviour be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.
The Most Revd Nicholas D. Okoh
Archbishop, Metropolitan and Primate of All Nigeria