John Newton, ACN United Kingdom
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada
Attacking “the ugly tide of corruption” in Nigeria’s government, a Catholic bishop has highlighted the tough challenges the country’s new administration will face after the election.
Montreal, Friday February 13 – In a message sent to international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah of Sokoto, Nigeria said the next parliament will need to deal with pressing issues destabilizing the nation. “Years of corruption have diminished the sense of loyalty to the Nigerian state,“ he said calling on the new president “to rally citizens around the project of a national identity and national unity.”
According to Bishop Kukah major inequalities have resulted from the wealth from Nigeria’s natural resources being concentrated in the hands of a few. “Despite the huge resources that the nation has received from the unprecedented sales in oil, there is hardly anything to show for it in the lives of ordinary citizens. The uncontrollable hemorrhaging of resources has led to the ubiquity of misery among the people.” He called on the election’s winners to channel resources into education, job creation and agriculture.
The impact of Boko Haram
Bishop Kukah warned that terrorist group Boko Haram had increased tensions between religious groups saying: “the insurgency has depleted a lot of the good will among the various ethnic groups and further deepened the fracture between Christians and Muslims.”
Drawing attention to recent attacks by Boko Haram, Bishop Kukah said: “In Sokoto where I live, as well as most northern cities, the last few months have witnessed a huge exodus of citizens, some out of the country, and others to their ancestral homes in different parts of the country.”
There are fears of a repeat of the violence that followed the 2011 election, when 800 killed were killed over a three-day period and many churches, businesses and homes were destroyed. Bishop Kukah explained, “Sadly, the federal government did almost nothing to redress these issues. No one was prosecuted and except for a few, the federal government did not deal with the issues of compensation for the majority of the citizens who lost property.”
“This is based on the ugly experiences that have been associated with some of the worst form of violence in Nigeria,” said the bishop describing how Christians had started sending their families to their ancestral homes and states even before the Christmas.
But the prelate was largely positive about the elections, which are currently scheduled for Saturday, March 28. “Nigerians,” he said “are approaching the forthcoming elections with measured optimism, excitement but a deep sense of caution and even trepidation.” Saying that the result was “too close to call,” Bishop Kukah paid tribute to efforts to repel Boko Haram’s recent incursion further south ahead of polling day.
ACN has provided $64,220 in emergency aid to the displaced people of the Maiduguri diocese who fled the advance of Boko Haram.
The charity also provided $52,800 in Mass Offerings to priests in the diocese, half of whom found refuge in the neighbouring Yola diocese.