Bishops' Joint Press Statement

  • Bishop Onah and Msgr. Bernard Ngwoke in procession

  • The Bishop leading the prayer procession with priests and alter servers

  • Bishop Onah the Joint Statement of the Catholic Bishops of the Three Dioceses in Enugu State Following an Interdiocesan Prayer Procession for Greater Security in the State in the Wake of Repeated Attacks by Herdsmen ...

  • Cross section of the crowd in prayer at the L.G. Secretariat

  • Cross section of the crowd in prayer at the L.G. Secretariat

  • One of the boldly written placards on the rape of women by the herdsmen

  • Prayer Session at the Nsukka L.G Secretariat - Msgr B. Ngwoke (left) Bishop Onah (Centre) Msgr. Taddeo Onoyima

  • Prof. Rose Onah, the Chairman of the Caretaker Committee, Nsukka Local Govt. speaking at the event

  • The Catholic faithful bearing placards

  • Bishop Onah gives the final blessing

  • Perhaps a divine phenomenon - indicating answered prayers - strangely the rainbow appears round the sun at the conclusion of the prayer session


(A Joint Press Statement by the Catholic Bishops of the Three Dioceses in Enugu State following an Inter-Diocesan Prayer Procession for Greater Security in the Sate, in the Wake of Repeated Attacks by Herdsmen in Various Parts of the State)

Ladies and gentlemen of the Press,
Fellow citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria:

For decades our people here in Enugu State - a peaceful and God-fearing population of predominantly peasant farmers, traders and civil servants - have played hosts (not without some difficulties) to a succession of Fulani herdsmen and their cattle in various parts of the State. Over the years, there have been frequent disagreements between the herdsmen and the local population, but such were mostly minor and tolerable inconveniences that one should expect in order to make accommodation for another within the same space.

In the past few years, however, this relationship has become increasingly problematic as the herdsmen turned aggressive, disrespectful and destructive in their activities. More recently, this gathering storm has led to conflicts characterized by kidnappings and robberies, the loss of lives, limbs and property, the rape of women and girls, and the utter destruction of farms and farmlands.

The most recent and widely reported incident at Nimbo, Uzo Uwani Local Government Area, in which several of our farmers and fellow citizens were savagely butchered to death in their own homes, was the culmination of a growing culture of impunity, arrogance and dare-devilry among the herdsmen, some of whom have become increasingly lawless.

The result is that an ominous cloud of fear, foreboding and insecurity now hangs thick over our people in their own home State. So far, the responses of the various security agencies to these attacks and needless provocations have not been enough to give the people a sense of being protected by them.

As responsible citizens, clergymen, spiritual leaders and opinion leaders, we have been praying about and deliberating on these mounting challenges. At the end of a long prayer session with the members of our flock and after careful consultations with thoughtful men and women across the State, we have come to the following conclusions:

a) That the free grazing of cattle in our area has now become a threat not only to the growing of crops, which is the mainstay of our sedentary people, but also to our lives.

b) That the nomadic lifestyle makes policing and the pursuit of criminals much more complex and hazardous, while providing terrorists like Boko Haram operatives with ready cover for penetrating every nook and cranny of our country.

In view of the aforementioned developments, we demand on behalf of our long-suffering people and all citizens of Nigeria that the various levels of Government in Nigeria take more proactive steps to ensure that this already tense situation does not degenerate into an open clash of ethnic nationalities all over the country.

The Government should not be seen as turning a blind eye to life-threatening problems of any section of the citizenry, especially when such an attitude is at the same time perceived as unduly favouring another section. In the light of this, therefore, we call on the Federal Government to drop, without further delay, the so-called "Grazing Bill" which is quite capable of tearing apart the fragile unity of our country.

Nigerians are already suffering much on account of the economic hardships in the Country at the moment. To add to this by abdicating its responsibility in the provision of security for the people would amount to insensitivity on the part of the Government. We equally believe it would be wrong for the Government to think that the patience of the people in these difficult times is unlimited.

We however enjoin our people, and indeed all the good people of Nigeria, to be law-abiding and to continue to work for a harmonious co-existence between all Nigerians. We shall continue to defend the right of every Nigerian to live in any part of the Country and carry on his or her legitimate business, while respecting the laws of the land and the rights of other people to do the same.

We urge all our local community leaders to refrain from entering into agreements with herdsmen or with any other groups of persons that would create room for tension and crisis. We would advise that all such agreements already in existence be renegotiated in a way that would ensure justice for all the parties.

Finally, may we all intensify our prayers for peace, unity and harmony in Nigeria, while resolving to collaborate with God's grace in making it a great Country.

Let us give peace a chance!

Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria! Long live Enugu State!!

Thank you for your time and patient attention.

+ John Ifeanyichukwu Okoye
(Catholic Bishop of Awgu)

+ Calistus Chukwuma Onaga
(Catholic Bishop of Enugu)

+ Godfrey Igwebuike Onah
(Catholic Bishop of Nsukka)

Given at Awgu, Enugu and Nsukka on Saturday 2 July 2016.


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