Communications Day 2007
Onaiyekan is new CAN
president - June 19
Abuja, June 19, 2007, Archbishop
John Onayeikan, Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, was today elected President of the
Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN).
With 72 votes to 33 votes,
Onayeikan defeated the incumbent and Primate of Church of Nigeria (Anglican
Communion), the Most Rev. Peter Akinola.
All 105 delegates of the National
Executive Council (NEC) of CAN Comprising of 10 delegates from each bloc, one
delegate from each State of the Federation including FCT, the 10 CAN National
officers, 5 Zonal representatives and the chairpersons of the Women and the
youth wings participated at the election which witnessed some tense moments.
``The rules and regulations of the
election process of CAN after some heated arguments, were followed and everybody
was satisfied,'' Onaiyekan said.
``There is a human element; there
was no panic really because we knew we were going to get it done. Everybody has
accepted the result of the election, '' Onaiyekan told the News Agency of
Asked whether arguments were
expected in a Christian gathering, the CAN president said: ``Even the apostles
argued. We have to understand the arguments as ways of making your honest point
On his vision for the next three
years, he said: ``It is too early. I wasn't particularly enthusiastic about the
position of the president.''
The 304 member General Assembly
of CAN is expected to ratify the election at its July 5 to July 6 meeting in
According to the constitution of
CAN, Onaiyekan, who won majority of votes of the NEC, shall be deemed nominated
as President while Akinola the runner-up is vice-president (VP).
However, sources at the NEC said:
''Akinola is not likely to accept the position of VP. It may be a bit
condescending for him. I will be Surprised if he accepts that position when the
General Assembly meets on July 6.”
CAN is made of five blocs
including the Christian Council of Nigeria (CCN) for Anglicans, Methodists,
Baptists, First African Church; the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN) a
group for Catholics and the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (CPFN/PFN) for
Pentecostal Churches. Others are Organisation of African Instituted Churches (OAIC) for
Celestial Church of Christ and Cherubim and Seraphim Churches; and the
Evangelical Fellowship of
West Africa (ECWA/TEKAN) with 15 denominations like ECWA, EYN, HEKAN, NKST,
COCCIN and LCCN.
It will be recalled that in a previous election by the Electoral
College constituted by CAN NEC, May 24, 2004, Most Rev. Onaiyekan defeated the
incumbent CAN president by 10 votes to 4. The 2 candidates who emerged 1st
and 2nd in that elections by the college were those presented for
election into the posts of President and Vice president respectively by NEC. The
college is made up of 3 members from each of the 5 blocs of
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Opus Securitatis ends
meeting/ workshop – June 6
Major coordinators of the
Opus Securitatis scheme in the various dioceses ended the two day
meeting/workshop with the National Coordinator of the scheme, Msgr. Hypolite A.
Adigwe at the Conference Room of Pontifical Mission Societies (PMS) building,
participants, the President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN),
Archbishop Alaba Job, emphasized the duty every Priest owes the Church and the
PMS in particular, which is to remit all monies collected for specific purposes
to the appropriate centers and not to keep any for their personal use. He
further reminded them that it is the responsibility of the Priests in Nigeria
and other Mission territories to secure
their future by proper management of the Opus Securitatis Scheme. This was also
the solicitude of the Chairman of Finance Committee of the CBCN, Most Rev.
Hilary Odidli Okeke.
Msgr Adigwe in his paper
traced the history of the scheme and offered a detailed account of its
philosophy and operations. He further explained the draft of the regulations
governing the workings of the scheme at both the National and Diocesan levels.
He also fielded questions on the project.
The Opus Securitatis is a
Pension Scheme for Diocesan Priests. The retirement or maturity age for the
scheme is 65 years.
Present at the workshop
were Very Rev. Fr. Mike Ekpenyong, the Secretary General, Catholic Secretariat
Nigeria CSN who delivered the welcome address; Mr. Emmanuel I. Ejewere of the
CSN Investment Concept who spoke on the need for proper management of funds at
the diocesan level; Msgr. B. Okodua of Lagos Archdiocese; Fr. Ralph Madu of the
Communication Directorate CSN, Abuja; Sr. Lucella Ukaegbu of the PMS Directorate
and 36 Priests from the different dioceses in the country.
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HOLY FATHER CREATES SHENDAM
DIOCESE (June 4, 2007)
The Holy Father, Pope
Benedict XVI has created the diocese of Shendam out of the Archdiocese of
Jos. At the same time, he has appointed Most Rev Dr James Daman,
OSA, as the first bishop of the new diocese. Bishop Daman who was until
his appointment the bishop of the diocese of Jalingo, has also been
appointed Apostolic Administrator of the diocese of Jalingo.
Born in Miket, Qua’an Pan
LGA, Plateau State on April 10, 1956, bishop Daman was accepted into the
Augustinian Monastery in Jos in 1975. He studied Philosophy and Theology in
St Augustine’s Seminary Jos and was ordained priest by John Paul II in
Kaduna on February 14, 1982.
He served at the
Augustinian parish community in Bekaji, Yola (1982-1985), there he was
Director of Christian Radio Programmes in the then Gongola Broadcasting
Service. From 1985-1987 he studied in Rome where he received a Licentiate in
Sacred Theology in the Alphonsianum. He later proceeded to Birmingham
University in the UK where he was awarded a diploma in communications.
Back to Nigeria in 1988 he
lectured in St Augustine’s Major Seminary, Jos, and the newly-opened St
Thomas Aquinas Seminary, Makurdi. He then returned to Rome where he received
a doctorate in Moral Theology in 1994. On his return to Nigeria, he rejoined
the staff of St Augustine’s Seminary, Jos. In 1997 he was elected first
Nigerian Vice Provincial of the Augustinian Order in Nigeria. At the
expiration of his first term (four years), he was re-elected for a second
term by his brother religious. He was appointed second bishop of Jalingo-in
succession of Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama- and was ordained bishop on
February 24, 2001.
The new diocese of Shendam
covers about 12,496 Sq Km with a population of about 980,810. It has a
catholic population of about 149,051, 17 parishes, 30 diocesan priests, 6
Religious priests, 7 Religious Sisters, 728 Catechists, 16 Major
Seminarians, 90 Minor Seminarians, 6 Educations institutions and 1 health
It may be recalled that it
was in Shendam that the Catholic faith was first preached to the people
north of the rivers Niger and Benue, when the SMA opened a mission station
there in February 1907. The centenary celebration in February was presided
over by the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of the
Peoples, Evan Cardinal Dias, and is now further marked by this happy
Rev Fr Mike Ekpenyong
Rev Fr Ralph Madu
General, Director, Social
Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN)
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Board of Trustees and Governing Council Inaugurated
(May 30, 2007)
The President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN)
Most Rev. Felix Alaba Job on Wed May 30 inaugurated the Board of Trustees and
the Governing Council of the Veritas University Abuja at the Knights of St. John
International Hall, Pro-Cathedral, Garki, Abuja.
In his speech shortly before the inauguration proper, Archbishop
Job pointed out that the inauguration of the two bodies was the very first
necessary step towards the actualization of the license. He charged the laity to
be prepared to carry out the full development of the Catholic
University, reminding them that the Catholic Church is not a new comer in the
founding of universities even though the
University is its first in
Further more, he challenged the Board of Trustees and the
Governing Council to see to it that the Permanent Site in
admits its first batch of students by the 3rd year of the existence of the
Obehie Campus. Dissolving the provisional council, the Archbishop thanked the
Chairman Prof. Afolabi Ojo and the members for work well done. Also thanked in
absentia was the former project director Prof. Charles Ofoegbu.
Among those present at the function were, Rtd. Gen. Chris Garba,
Bishop Martin Uzoukwu of Minna; Msgr Hypolite Adigwe Director, Mission and
Dialogue CSN; Fr. Mike Ekpenyong, Secretary General CSN who gave the vote of
thanks; Fr. Patrick Ariwale, the Interim Project Director; Fr. Peter Okonkwo CMF,
Director, Pastoral Agents CSN; Msgr. Felix Adeigbo, Rector, Catholic Institute
of West Africa, Port Harcourt; Sir David Osunde and Lady Theresa Obiakor, Grand
Respected President of the Abuja Grand Ladies Auxiliary KSJ International.
Members of Board of Trustees
His Eminence, Anthony Cardinal O. Okogie, Chairman
His Grace, Most Rev. Dr. F. Alaba Job (President CBCN),
His Grace, Most Rev. Dr. John Onaiyekan, Pro-Chancellor
His Excellency, Sir Dr. Peter Odili, Member
Ambassador Mrs. Judith Attah, Member
His Royal Highness, Professor Edozien, (The Asagba of Asaba),
His Royal Highness, Sir A. E. N. Izuwa, (KSJ, KSG), Member
Chief, Mrs. Felicia Onyeabor, Member
His Excellency, Mr. Patrick Yakowa, Deputy-Gov.
Members of the Governing Council
His Grace, Most Rev. Dr. John Onaiyekan, Pro-Chancellor/ Chairman
His Grace Most Rev. Dr. A. J. V. Obinna, Member
Professor G. Afolabi Ojo, Member
Professor Olu Aina, Member
Professor Gabriel M. Umezurike, Member
Professor Mike Kwanashi, Member
Mrs. Catherine Hoomkwap, Member
Professor Patrick Ebong, Member
Chief Felix Nwarie, (Rep. Host Community), Member
Veritas University (Catholic University of Nigeria) Abuja (May
The Catholic Bishops
Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) on Thursday, May 17, 2007, was issued provisional
license for the commencement of the Veritas University (Catholic University of
Nigeria) Abuja. Preparations are being made towards the take-off of the
university in September, 2007, using the facilities at Obehie which have been
completed to the full satisfaction of the National Universities Commission.
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Hope May Not Be In Vain
at the end of the First Plenary Meeting of the
Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) at the
Retreat and Conference Centre, New Lugbe, Abuja.
members of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria, held our First Plenary
Meeting for the year 2007 at the Divine Love Retreat and Conference Centre (DRACC),
New Lugbe, Abuja,
from February 26 to March 3, 2007.
During the Plenary, we prayerfully reflected on and discussed the theme,
Good Governance, Democracy and Christian Responsibility. We now present
our communiqué to the Church and to the nation.
II. SIGNS OF HOPE
faith in God inspires us to see signs of hope in the life of the Church in Nigeria
and in the life of Nigeria itself. We believe in God, and we believe that God’s
blessings have not and will not elude our Church and our country.
Growth in the
Among the signs of hope we see is the growth and the attainment of maturity of
the Church in Nigeria.
We note that our first plenary this year is taking place shortly after the
centenary of the arrival of Catholicism in Uyo Diocese, and in the dioceses
north of the Rivers Niger and Benue. The centenary celebrations in Ekeya, Uyo
Diocese from December 7-9,
and in Shendam, Jos Archdiocese on February 10,
bear eloquent testimony to the growth and maturity of the Church in our
country. In Shendam, we were blessed with the presence of Ivan Cardinal Dias,
Prefect, Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.
We have also
witnessed an addition to the number of Catholic Bishops in Nigeria in the
Episcopal ordination of Most Rev. John Ebebe Ayah as Bishop of Ogoja, and the
appointment of Msgr Paulinus Ezeokafor as Auxiliary Bishop of Awka. Msgr.
Ezeokafor’s Episcopal ordination will take place at St. Patrick’s Cathedral,
Awka, on April 28, 2007.
rejoice in the growth of the Church in our country we pray, hope and work that
this will translate into the formation of Christians who will participate in
public life with maturity, honesty and utmost responsibility.
Developments in the Nation
Some of the recent interventions by the judiciary and the National Assembly,
insofar as they stood by the side of the rule of law and good governance, helped
to avert deepening the crisis in our fragile democracy. May such firm
interventions become the norm and not the exception in the life of our country.
Even though we have witnessed religious and ethnic conflicts in the distant and
recent memories of our country, we see hope in an increasing number of Nigerians
who initiate and nurture friendship across ethnic and religious divides. There
are reasons to believe that Nigerians can live together as members of God’s
family in peace and harmony.
Nigerians freely express themselves perceptively and with civility on matters
which pertain to the common good. This demonstrates their profound desire for
good governance. This very desire is a sign of hope. This hope is reinforced
by the granting of licenses to thirty-five private radio stations this year.
Government is demonstrating its willingness to enter into partnership with
private organizations in the information and education sectors. We therefore
hope that government will soon begin to grant licenses to religious bodies as it
is done in other countries.
Living in very difficult conditions, deprived of functional infrastructure like
good roads, good transportation, reliable supply of electricity, Nigerians,
despite being highly critical of the situation in the country, remain resilient
and joyful. Those who describe Nigerians as the happiest people in the world
have good reasons to say so. Our people have shown that they do not give up in
the face of obstacles to their welfare. This resilience is nourished by faith
in God, even when the way and manner in which religion is practiced remains a
challenge for us as pastors of the people.
hope that Nigeria represents has already been beautifully described by Pope John
Paul II of blessed memory who, at the end of his first visit to Nigeria
twenty-five years ago said: “I take away with me very vivid memories of a great
nation, a generous people, a dynamic Church, a richly endowed and warm-hearted
youth, a country which honours the family, respects the elderly and regards
children as a blessing. In short, I take with me an unforgettable memory of a
country which is a credit to Africa,
to the world and to the Church
Jesus Christ” (Address at Departure from Nigeria, 1982, n. 2).
III. AREAS OF CONCERN
our hope is to be realized and not become a vain illusion, there are areas of
concern which we need to identify and address as pastors and as citizens of our
fact that this is another election year is a matter of grave concern for us and
for most Nigerians. Past experiences make Nigerians enter this season of
elections with heightened trepidation. If every election in the history of Nigeria
has ended on a note of controversy, Nigerians wonder if it would be different
this time around. They long for free and fair elections. The level of
preparedness of security agencies and the Independent National Electoral
Commission (INEC) makes many Nigerians doubt if the electoral process will
reflect their will and produce a credible leadership. If the political parties
are incapable or unwilling to conduct credible primary elections, what guarantee
have Nigerians that the April 2007 elections will be credible?
heart of our electoral crises is the belief that politics is about the
acquisition of wealth, of oil wealth, by the political office holder. In a
curious paradox, our country is rich but our people are poor. That a country of
great abundance is inhabited by people who labour under dehumanizing deprivation
is a source of major concern.
the Rule of Law
is not only our leaders who are culpable. The led also have questions to
answer. Disrespect for the rule of law, has become a common feature of our
life. It shows itself in various forms of indiscipline, by the leaders and the
led, by the mighty and the lowly in the land. It shows itself in the scandalous
disregard for court orders, even by government. Lawlessness and indiscipline
make good governance difficult. Selfishness inspires disregard for the law and
thus works against the common good. To work against the common good is to work
against the dignity that pertains to us as human beings. It shows itself at the
heart of a culture of death that is spreading across the length and breadth of
Nigeria. It shows itself in the crime wave that continues to be on the increase
while law enforcement agents appear helpless or, in any case, unhelpful.
the Niger Delta
lingering crisis in the Niger Delta remains a major source of concern. Oil
exploration has brought wealth to oil companies and to a few. The staggering
cost to millions of inhabitants of the region, who are yet to benefit from the
wealth, is a death-dealing ecological degradation and a gross violation of
fundamental human rights. It is a grave sin that the Niger Delta, a region that
has contributed immensely to the wealth of this country, remains a region of
dehumanizing poverty, unemployment and a destroyed ecosystem.
turmoil in our society cannot be separated from the turmoil in family life. The
family is the nucleus of the human society. A just society is a happy society.
But a just society is an aggregate of just citizens. Such citizens are born
into and nurtured in just families. Family life is vital to the continued
existence of the human society as a whole. When family life is sick, its
consequences are felt in the society. That is why we view with grave concern
threats to the traditional sacredness of family life such as the evil of
abortion and the attempt to legalize same sex “marriages” in our country.
Twenty-five years ago, Pope John Paul II’s description of Nigeria as a credit to
Africa, to the world and to the Church of Christ laid before us what we are
called to become and can become if we seek the path of virtue. This is already
being realized among the signs of hope we enumerated earlier. At the same time,
the areas of concern we have identified warn us not to relent in our efforts
until we become the type of country the Lord wants us to be. As Pastors, our
prophetic duty is to exhort with the word of God, the word which the prophet
Ezekiel was commanded to address to dry bones so as to resuscitate them (Cf.
Ezek 37:4-10; Ps 104:30). Christ confirmed this word by sending the Spirit to
renew the face of the earth (Cf. Jn 20:19-23).
We believe this same Spirit will renew the face of our beloved country Nigeria. That
is why he moves us to present the following exhortation.
of Love and Good Governance
Techniques of social, political and economic re-engineering are necessary but
not sufficient in transforming a country. Virtues are necessary. We therefore
urge that the virtue of patriotism, that is, of love of the land and of its
people, be reawakened in every Nigerian, leaders and led, young and old. This
evocation of patriotism is done in the name of love which every religion
advocates. True religion promotes patriotism (Cf. James 1:27).
Politics itself, despite its many misconceptions, is the concretization of the
love of God in the city of man. The love that true religion motivates makes one
to see politics as striving for a just city of man in preparation for the
perfection of justice in the City of God.
governance is not just about elections. It necessarily involves consultation
and dialogue between the people and their representatives. It requires the
participation of all. We therefore appeal to all Nigerians to participate in the
political process of this country. Leaders and policy makers, no matter how
intelligent and well intentioned, must listen to the people they claim to
serve. Those who lead the land at every level of governance must not become
overbearing masters but humble servants of the people. Lest we languish in
tyranny, government must not become more powerful than the people. For in a
democracy, the people put the government in place. Those who govern are not
lords, those they govern are not subjects. All are equal citizens, and none is
to be taken for granted.
virtue is needed for good politics, how can we fail to mention that good role
models are needed for the acquisition of virtue. We sing in our National
Anthem, “The labors of our heroes past shall never be in vain.” Nigerians,
especially the younger generation, need good role models in politics. Role
models are also needed in every sphere of our life. Where there are no heroes,
heroic achievements are hard to come by. This country needs heroes who
exemplify the virtues of courage, wisdom, justice, self control, hard work,
humility and honesty. It is not a case of calling on others to be heroic. It
is a case of each of us striving to be good role models in and out of our
country in whatever sphere of human endeavor Divine Providence has placed us.
We pray for the emergence of “holy politicians and saintly heads of state who
profoundly love their own people and wish to serve rather than be served” (Ecclesia
in Africa, n. 111).
free and fair elections
whole world is watching to see how we will conduct the elections this year. The
2007 elections provide Nigeria and Nigerians a momentous occasion to resolve to
return to the path of honour in the conduct of elections. These elections will
either increase or diminish the respect that the international community has for
Nigeria. To our politicians, we ask: what does it profit a politician if he
steals the mandate to rule and looses the trust of the people? We cannot afford
to fail, and there must be no rigging.
deserve and demand free and fair elections from the ruling and opposition
parties, from INEC, and from the security agencies. In the build-up to these
elections, mistakes have been made already. But a number of things can still be
corrected in the days that remain before the elections. We therefore make a
passionate appeal that all political parties, INEC, security agents and the
judiciary ensure that there be a level playing ground for all. We appeal to all
politicians to exhibit a more positive attitude to the concept and practice of
politics. Power must be handled with great care and must not be misused by
those in authority. We therefore call on the ruling party not to use the power
of incumbency to subvert the wishes of the people. Free and fair elections are
in the interest of the common good. Such elections are not do or die affairs.
In fact, when elections are free and fair there are no losers. All are winners.
campaign for public office, we urge our politicians to refrain from intemperate
and uncivil language and address issues that affect the lives of Nigerians.
Nigerians want to know how our politicians will address issues of poverty,
unemployment, energy, education, insecurity, religious disharmony,
marginalization of women etc. Instead of a campaign marked by character
assassination, we need a campaign that discusses how economic reforms can lead
to economic independence and the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
On their own
part, Nigerians should vote according to their consciences in the coming
elections. This is a necessary condition for the enthronement of a credible
leadership at various levels of governance.
Just war on
There cannot be good governance where there is corruption. All of us must join
hands in erasing the stigma of corruption on this country. There is justice in
a war on corruption. Yet, a just war must be fought justly. That is why we
call on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to be comprehensive,
just and fair in its treatment of cases of corruption. The manner of releasing
information by the EFCC may amount to trying people in the media where the
burden of proof is lighter than in a well-constituted court. We urge that
utmost respect be accorded the principle that no one is guilty until proven in a
well-constituted court. All semblance of lynching should be avoided.
that professes to fight corruption sets for itself the high ideal of fighting
injustice. Any government that professes to fight injustice must itself be
just. Prompt obedience to court orders is a requirement of justice. When the
courts of the land are disrespected, peace and stability can no longer be
guaranteed. We appeal to government and its agents to respect the judiciary,
while we urge the judiciary to dispense justice promptly and without fear or
resolution of the Niger Delta Crisis
22. The Niger
Delta issue is a question of justice and good governance that concerns all. The
degradation caused by oil exploration threatens the livelihood of present and
future generations in the Niger Delta. At the same time, violence is scaring
away companies that provide means of livelihood for many. We urge relevant
agencies of government to call political office holders in the region to account
for the way resources accruing to the region have been used. Where there are
proven cases of misappropriation, appropriate laws should be applied. We appeal
to our youths in the Niger Delta to eschew violence. Violence will not provide
any lasting solution to the problem of the Niger Delta. For violence is a
journey to a land of no return.
call on the Justice Development and Peace Commissions at diocesan and provincial
levels, all Catholics, and indeed all civil society organizations to be
protagonists in the quest for free, fair and peaceful elections. We call the
attention of the clergy, consecrated persons and our lay faithful to the theme
of the Lenten campaign for the year 2007: “Justice: An Imperative for
Democracy.” We declare that the Fifth Week of Lent be set aside to fast and
pray for peaceful, free and fair elections.
our hope may not be in vain, and that this generation of leaders and the led not
weep on its death bed, we as Bishops appeal that we all work together to lay a
foundation for a future when generations yet unborn will bless and not curse our
25. Our hope will not be in
vain because, with the psalmist, we too say: “Our help is in the name of the
Lord, who made heaven and earth.” Our Christian faith strengthens our hope that
we can build a better country by the power of the Almighty who has blessed us
with such a wonderful land of wonderful people. We commend our country and its
people into his hands through the maternal intercession of Mary, Mother of God
and Queen of Nigeria.
Most Rev. Felix Alaba
Job Most Lucius
Archbishop of Ibadan Bishop of Umuahia
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CALLS FOR UNDERSTANDING OF VALUE OF LIFE
of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria and the Archbishop of Ibadan
Archdiocese, Most Rev. Felix Alaba Job has called on Nigerian politicians to
have deeper understanding of human dignity and value of life as well as as
disown corruption and avoid money politics.
Alaba Job made the cal in his opening address to the First plenary Meeting of
the Conference held in Abuja
from February 27 to March 3, 2007;
at the Divine Love Retreat and Recreation Centre (DRRAC), Lugbe, Abuja.
political situation of the country, the CBCN President regretted that the
politicians have been making moves that are detrimental to the democratic
progress of the country. Prominent among these were the failed third term
agenda which attempted to elongate President Olusegun Obasanjo’s tenure;
attempted review of the 1999 constitution, gale of impeachment over trivial
issues, use of official immunity for crime, power intoxication and flouting of
rule of law.
He noted that
this situation made the bishops to choose the topic Governance, Democracy and
Christian Responsibility as the theme for the CBCN’ Plenary meeting adding that:
“We are leaving no stone unturned to bring justice and fair play to the life of
our nation.” The Archbishop urged the politicians to emulate the Catholic
bishops in their election process which was peaceful, smooth and unrigged as the
CBCN elected new officers to run the affairs of the conference for the next four
president also called on the country’s legislators to avoid “the temptation of
filthy lucre, be true authentic Nigerians and legislate against and prohibit
same sex marriage in Nigeria.
called on all Nigerians, particularly the people of Niger Delta to eschew
violence in the process of demanding for their legitimate rights. He
commiserated with the Catholic laity on the death of their National president,
Chief John Iredia and congratulated the Church, North of Rivers Niger and
Benue for attaining the mature age of a century.
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Nuncio, Archbishop Renzo Fratini has called for change of heart in respect of
thinking about and happenings in Nigeria. “We
should be more positive and not always criticizing what is wrong here. It’s
better to stress some good steps in the right direction in the last few years,
to have an attitude of hope and encouragement underlining the gradual
improvement of the situation in certain areas”.
Fratini made the call in his goodwill message to the First Plenary meeting of the
Catholic Bishop’s Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) for the year 2007 held at the
Divine Love Retreat and Conference Centre (DRRAC), Lugbe, Abuja,
from February 28 to March 3, 2007.
him, pessimism is not in the interest of the country as there have been some
progress made in some areas of the country development as a nation. He remarked:
“ Certainly, there are problems in Nigeria, social, and political problems ... like corruption, insecurity, democratic
fragility, poverty and unemployment”. However, “sometimes, I feel that if we are
not careful, we could become cynical and too pessimistic in Nigeria with
reference to good governance, democracy and Christian responsibility”.
Nuncio pointed out that the majority of people are trying their best, showing
signs of patience, signs of honesty and respect for the basic values of life
with the hope of a better future. He continued: “This society in spite of the
endemic corruption, is still open to religious values. Family life is highly
appreciated. The people are patient and are able to cope with serenity and even
with joy, in spite of the trouble and the struggle of their difficult daily
Fratini remarked that there is progress in the macro-economy, which should
affect also the common people; strong commitment to international affairs and
interest for peaceful resolution of conflict and a new democratic stability that
needs to be reinforced with social reforms, more attention to education , to
social justice and basic needs of the people.
the bishops a successful deliberation the Papal Nuncio concluded: “Let’s look at
the world around us in a spiritual perspective and let’s give some positive
indications with trust in the aspirations of the human being for goodness and
happiness, which can be achieved always trusting in the Lord”.
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MUCH TO CBCN – Obasanjo
Chief Olusegun Obasanjo has declared that the Nigerian nation owes much to the
Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) for its consistent and insistent
advocacy for peace and good governance.
Obasanjo gave the commendation in his address to the 2007 First Plenary Meeting
of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria held from February 28, t0 March 3,
2007; at the Divine Love Retreat and Conference Centre (DRACC), Lugbe, Abuja.
the president, the government strongly believes in the wisdom of religious
authorities while himself and other people in authority are willing to profit
from the historic resources of the Church in the efforts to make Nigeria a
commending the bishops for the choice of the topic Good Governance, Democracy
and Christian Responsibility as the theme of their conference, President
Obasanjo expressed the hope that this will help deepen the Christian values that
will guide politicians and temporal leaders on the part of peace and prosperity.
contended that “we know that the victory of Christ on the cross symbolizes for
us the inevitability of the triumph of good over evil both in our public and
private worlds adding that the voice of the bishops had been heard loud and
clear in defense of the rights of the poor against the “culture of dearth”
whether in the form of unbridled corruption of public officials, hostage taking
in Niger Delta or religious or sectarian violence.
commended the bishops for their constructive comments in times of crisis but
advocated for more patience in obtaining the side of government in such
situations. Urging the Church to remain a strong ally of government and partner
in the quest to build a new Nigeria, the
president implore all to preach “those cardinal virtues which Christ and the
Apostles modeled for us”.
the bishops a successful deliberation, President Obasanjo expressed the joy in
the fact that “the Catholic Church shared passionately in our vision of
redeeming the image of Nigeria and
making her a dignified place to live”.
Obasanjos’ message was delivered by National Secretry of the Peoples Democratic
Party, Chief Ojo Maduekwe
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ONAIYEKAN ON IMPORTANCE OF ELECTIONS
of Abuja, Most Rev. John Onaiyekan has described election as a very important
exercise which gives the people the opportunity to assess the programmes and
policies of government and not only to elect their rulers.
Onaiyekan made this declaration while delivering his homily at the votive Mass
to mark the opening of this year’s first Plenary Meeting of the Catholic Bishops
Conference of Nigeria, held at the \Divine Love Retreat and Conference Centre (DRACC),
Abuja on February 26,
“Elections are not only for the choice of rulers. It is also an opportunity for
the people to assess programmes and policies of government. Again here, the
people must be allowed to decide, whether to continue the programmes of
government, or to change direction. Even the best intentioned reforms,
especially if they are far reaching and drastic, must be subjected to the
sovereign decision of the people.
continued: “But the people will be able to choose only if and when there are
viable and real alternatives of candidates and political manifestoes. The rights
of the people in this regard is subverted if a dominant party crushes all
opposition and pushes for total political control by all means, fair or foul,
and mostly foul.” He admonished those who think they are doing very well, and
cannot see anyone better than themselves to leave the people to judge.
Onaiyekan expressed fear on the forthcoming general elections pointing out that
“ the records of the immediate past are anything but "encouraging". He continued:
“Having tolerated in many places elections marred by massive rigging and
violence, we have been reaping the sour and bitter fruits of the political
crisis that has characterized governance and government since those last
metropolitan of Abuja See averred that the nation is living through turbulent
and confused times stressing that “we need the light of the Holy Spirit to see
our way through the darkness and confusion, to make a correct analysis of the
situation around us, to see the truth and have the courage to proclaim it”.
on Catholics and Christians of proven integrity to go into politics to correct
the anomalies in the polity and save the nation, Archbishop Onaiyekan urged the
people to storm heaven with prayer because, “as Christians, we must be imbued
with the Spirit of hope in the goodness of our Lord and God. He has continued to
pull our country through one crisis after another. With His divine help, we can
still fashion for ourselves a history of peace and progress.”
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CARDINAL DIAS ENDS 13 DAYS
VISIT TO NIGERIA
The Prefect of the Sacred
Congregation for the Evangelization of the Peoples, Ivan Cardinal Dias, has
ended a 13- day visit to Nigeria, (8-20 Feb. 2007).
During the period, the prefect
presided over several major events in both the Northern and the Eastern Regions
of the country. These include, the Centenary Celebration of the advent of the
catholic faith in Northern Nigeria (North of the Rivers Niger and Benue), Sat
Feb 10, the Silver Jubilee celebration of the first visit of the Late Pope John
Paul II to Onitsha, ( Feb 17), and the dedication of SS John and
Paul church, Iba Pope, built on the site where the Servant of God, late John
Paul II had celebrated the holy mass 25 years ago in Onitsha (Feb 18).
The Cardinal also visited four
major seminaries in the Onitsha Ecclesiastical Province - Tansi, Bigard Awka,
Bigard Enugu (Feb. 16) and the St. Bernard Seminary Hostel in Nichatancha Nike,
Enugu (Feb. 19), the Benedictine and Cistercian monasteries at Umuoji and
Nsugbe respectively. One of the major events at Awka was the reception of His
Eminence at St. Patrick’s cathedral by the bishop and faithful of Awka diocese
and the laying of the foundation stone of the Divine Mercy Chapel of Bigard
Seminary Awka Campus.
In addition, the Cardinal Prefect blessed and laid the foundation
stone of a four number hostel, the Holy family youth village, a missionary
outreach of the Archdiocese of Onitsha, meant for undergraduate students of
Nnamdi Azikiwe Federal University, Awka.
According to the Archbishop, It is an effort to impact on the character of the
youth by providing them with conducive and enabling environment for studies and
good conduct. The students have no such facilities even when the university has
an enrollment of thirty thousand students.
Enugu, the prefect was most
delighted to visit the 88-year-old bishop emeritus of Enugu, Most Rev Michael
Eneja. This was followed by a concelebrated holy mass at the Holy Ghost
cathedral, before his departure (Monday Feb 19 2007).
In his homily during the mass
which marked the climax of the centenary celebration at the Sacred Heart Church
arena Shendam, Cardinal Dias who is also the Grand Chancellor of the Urban
University Rome, paid great tributes to the first S.M.A fathers through whose
daunting missionary efforts the catholic faith came into the North. ‘Like
Abraham these first missionaries had faith in the Lord’s call, as they set out
in an open canoe from Lokoja; “We are going into the unknown under God’s holy
keeping’, wrote Fr Mouren.
According to him, “Faith
springs from adversity and hardships borne for love of Christ: in a word, from
the cross. The Church is a sign of the Kingdom of heaven, where there are no
barriers, no special enclosures for ethnic, clan political, or other such
Furthermore, the Prefect noted
that, “Shendam, and what took place here 100 years ago, must not be forgotten. I
am aware of your wish that it may become the seat of another jurisdiction, to be
carved out of the Archdiocese of Jos. I know that it is also the wish of your
Archbishop, Most Reverend Ignatius Kaigama, who has received us so well today.
These things need time but I hope that his wish, which is also your wish, will
soon be realized”.
Cardinal Dias finally prayed
that the “centenary celebration, in which we recall with gratitude to God our
‘fathers in the faith’, be an incentive for greater efforts on our part, not
only here in Shendam but throughout the whole region north of the great rivers,
to the very borders of Cameroun, Niger Republic and Benin Republic”.
Present at the Mass were,
Anthony Cardinal Okogie, the papal nuncio to Nigeria, Archbishop Renzo Fratini,
the president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), Archbishop
Felix Alaba Job, Archbishops John Onaiyekan (Abuja), Anthony Obinna (Owerri),
Valerian Okeke (Onitsha), 28 bishops, hundreds of priests and religious, the
Executive Governors of Plateau and Benue states, representatives of the
president and vice president of Nigeria, the Moslem community and thousands of
worshippers never imagined in the history of Shendam. Also present was His Royal
Highness, Miskoom Hubert Shaldas II, the Long Gamai, whose grand parents
received the first SMA missionaries, Oswald, Belin and Mouren into Shendam on
Feb 12, 1907.
Speaking on the occasion, the
president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria, Most Rev Felix Alaba
Job, expressed joy at the numerous benefits the Catholic Church has brought to
the North, including Education and challenged them to bring justice to the
country. He thanked the SMA fathers for their fruitful mission in the North. He
further thanked Propaganda Fide for granting economic, social and personnel
support to all the dioceses in Nigeria,
The metropolitan of Jos Ecclesiastical Province,
Archbishop Ignatius A
Kaigama, had earlier welcomed
the cardinal and all other guests. While thanking the SMA fathers for their
great missionary efforts the fruits of which were being celebrated, he urged
“all to put the whole armour of God that is the belt of faith and grasp the
sword of the word of God for the spiritual battle ahead”, bearing in mind that
“the work of the evangelization of Nigeria is enormous.”
Archbishop Kaigama used the
occasion to present papal awards to 20 awardees, which included two monsignori-
Ben Obidiegwu and Cletus Gotan who are the two vicars general of the Archdiocese
and to announce the beginning of the cause for the beatification/canonization of
his immediate predecessor, Archbishop Gabriel G. Ganaka, the first indigenous
bishop and Archbishop of Jos (1975-1999).
Ivan Cardinal Dias and his
entourage were welcomed at the Enugu airport by an exceedingly jubilant crowd
comprising of the bishops of the Onitsha province and the faithful led by the
Archbishop, Most Rev Valerian Maduka Okeke.
Speaking later at a colourful
reception organized by the Onitsha Archdiocese in honour of the cardinal,
Archbishop Okeke described Cardinal Dias as a humble prelate with great
solicitude for the people of God. According to him, the 70-year-old cardinal was
the first prefect of the congregation of the Evangelization of the Peoples to
have ever visited them while still in office. He thanked him for accepting the
invitation to come to the diocese for the silver jubilee celebration of the
first visit of the Servant of God, late Pope John Paul II, barely few months
after assuming office as the prefect of the congregation.
In his address, Archbishop Job
thanked the clergy and laity of Onitsha Archdiocese for the love lavished on the
cardinal to the extent of making him a chief - Ugochukwu. He prayed that
the cardinal’s visit would bring peace as we approach the April elections.
Referring to the instability in the state’s leadership, he called on the people
of Anambra to work tirelessly for peace, noting that if Anambra state does not
have peace, then Nigeria cannot have peace. He further challenged all to be
bearers of peace, justice and forerunners of good things yet to come.
Concluding, He prayed that God’s goodwill might follow the people and enable
them carry out the election in peace, truth, and fair play.
1 Silver Jubilee
demonstrated its high sense of organization in the colourful decoration and
preparation of the Holy Trinity centenary field, which was the venue for the
silver jubilee mass. The number of worshippers was extremely intimidating as
people constantly surged into the arena until the end of the celebration.
In his homily at the mass
concelebrated by 20 bishops and more than 300 priests from the old Onitsha
ecclesiastical province, the cardinal who was getting his first tastes of Igbo
culture and hospitality greeted the people with Otito dili Jesu.
He expressed great joy at being present at the commemoration of 25 years of the
pope’s first visit to Onitsha recalling that the Holy Father, John Paul 11 was
in Onitsha in 1982 and again in 1998 for the beatification of the Blessed
Cyprian Iwene Tansi.
The cardinal eulogized the
late Pontiff describing him as the most widely traveled pontiff in history who
covered a distance more than the miles from earth to the moon and back. He
described Pope John Paul II as a man of undaunted courage who suffered much
under communism in his homeland, Poland even before becoming a priest. He also
recalled the attempt at his life by Agca. He was a man of broad view, embracing
everyone –Hindus, Moslem, Traditional religionists, princes and the poor alike,
he added. The late pope, he went on, was a spirit-filled leader who traveled
world-wide to implement the directives of the Second Vatican Council and promote
a new way of living the faith; he was a man of God, a man of prayer who, like
Christ his master, went about doing good.
Cardinal Dias pointed out that
the Holy Father would not have been here had the early Holy Ghost missionaries
not courageously ventured into Onitsha in 1885. The seed, which they planted,
not in comfort, but in suffering and even persecution has blossomed into 18
dioceses and 3 ecclesiastical provinces.
He further recalled that the
first missionary Fr. Lotz came to Onitsha with assistance from the people of
Gabon. “Thus you got the church by their help,” he said. However, today there
are priests from Nigeria working in Gabon.
He observed that the church in
the region has passed through some difficult movements especially the expulsion
of the Holy Ghost missionaries after the civil war. “No Easter Sunday without
Good Friday” he said. Finally, he enjoined all to emulate the late John Paul II
by being devotees of the Rosary and of the Holy Eucharist.
In an address jointly signed
by the metropolitans of the three ecclesiastical provinces of the old Onitsha
province (Onitsha, Owerri and Calabar), and read by Bishop Joseph Ekuwem of Uyo,
the people of God of the region, recalled with gratitude the missionary efforts
of the early missionaries and called for “renewed commitment to evangelization
with an approach and method that will be appealing and relevant to the 21st
The address said, “After a
hundred and twenty years of the planting of the faith in our land… the evident
boom in priestly and religious vocations we have today can be said to be an
encouraging realization of the desire of the Lord himself that God the master of
the vineyard send abundant laborers into his harvest.”
“We have presently six
provincial Major seminaries for formation of the candidates for diocesan
priesthood as well as three Major seminaries for formation of religious priests,
with such abundance of vocations and a buoyant and active laity, we can say that
God has not allowed the effort of the missionaries in our land to be in Vain.”
Furthermore, the address
thanked the congregation for the Evangelization of the Peoples for the enormous
contributions the organ “made and continues to make towards the sustenance of
the church in the region.”
Also highlighted were the
challenges that face the church in the area. These include,
- The need for deeper and
intense catechesis of the faithful to counter the dangerous incursion of neo-
paganism and vulnerability to the bait of new religious movements.
- Developing a meaningful
inculturation strategy that would help make the message of the gospel less
foreign to the people.
2 Dedication of SS John
and Paul Church (Iba Pope)
Amidst great jubilation from a
huge crowd, Ivan Cardinal Dias presided at the Mass of the dedication of SS John
and Paul Church built as memento of the first visit of His Holiness, Pope John
Paul 11, to Awada, Onitsha in 1982. The procession into the church was slow and
turbulent because of the surging crowd as everyone tried to touch His Eminence
the Cardinal. Also present at the mass concelebrated by six bishops and about 60
priests were the Executive Governor of Anambra State, Dr Peter Obi, and Chief
With repeated greetings of
otito dili Jesu! and Iba! to which the faithful replied Na ndu
ebebe! and Pope! respectively, the Prefect began his homily amidst
very loud ovation. He recalled how Awada that was a fallow land when the Holy
Father visited 25 years ago has today turned into a holy and tickly populated
ground. He further observed that through the dedicated efforts of many we have
the church to be dedicated to Saints John and Paul who were two great apostles.
“Pope John Paul 11 took his
name from Pope John XXIII who planned the Second Vatican Council and Pope Paul
VI who implemented the council,” he said. This Church, he went on, is going to
be a memorial not only of the past pope’s visit but also of what the saints,
John and Paul stand for. While St John’s identity gives the example of one who
listened to God in the silence of his heart, St Paul was the apostle to the
Gentiles, whose daunted missionary life brought the gospel to many nations. They
are examples of the contemplative and the active lives respectively.
The Cardinal recalled his
visits to the Benedictine and Cistercian monasteries in Onitsha, dedicated to
internal silence and life, and to the St Paul’s Missionary Seminary in
Gwagwalada Abuja, and prayed that these two dimensions of life be the model of
every Christian in commemoration of the silver jubilee of the Holy Father’s
visit to Onitsha.
He warned that the winds of
secularization and globalization are strong hoping that the roots of the faith
in Nigeria are deep enough to withstand these waves.
Finally, he greeted the
congregation repeatedly in Igbo amidst great approbation and elation.
3 Enugu Diocese
In the mass in Enugu, which
was the last port of call of His Eminence before his departure to
Rome, he expressed joy at having
the special greetings of the pope the bishop emeritus of the diocese, Most Rev
Michael Eneja who shepherded the diocese for 18 years. “In the church one sows
and another reaps,” he said, making allusion to the pastoral initiatives of
bishop John Cross Aniogwu who was both the first Igbo priest and the first
bishop of Enugu. He also paid tributes to his successor bishop Paul Okoye, the
founder of the congregation of the Daughters of Divine Love.
The Cardinal further expressed
joy at the increase in the vocation to the priesthood as is evidenced in the
number of students in Bigard, the largest Major seminary in the world, and hoped
they could become more and more missionary. He thanked the bishop of Enugu, Most
Rev Anthony Gbuji for establishing the School of Evangelization in Iselle Uku
and Enugu. “Nigeria can be a great missionary country,” he added.
In their address, the Bishops
and people of Awgu and Enugu dioceses expressed sincere appreciation of the
Cardinals historic visit, coming exactly nine years after the last visit in 1998
of the Servant of God, His Holiness, Pope John Paul 11 on the beatification of
Blessed Cyprian Iwene Tansi.
Furthermore, they thanked the
Hoy Father for the erection of the diocese of Awgu noting that the two dioceses
enjoy vigour and vitality, enthusiasm, natural religiosity, and a sense of the
transcendence of God and the Church as family.
Concluding, they appealed to
the Holy Father to grant the request for the creation of a new diocese of Udi,
out of the present Enugu diocese and to appoint for them a worthy leader from
among their own people, qualified and imbued with the spirit and according to
the mind of Christ.
The concelebrants at the Mass
were the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Renzo Fratini, Archbishop Valerian Okeke,
Bishops Hilary Okeke, Anthony Gbuji, John Okoye, Martin Uzoukwu who was on the
Cardinal’s entourage from Abuja, and about 120 priests.
Earlier during his stay in
Abuja, Cardinal Dias had visited the St Paul’s Missionary Seminary in Gwagwalada,
Abuja, and paid a courtesy call on the president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.
FR Ralph Madu
Catholic Secretariat of
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ADVOCATES NATIONAL CATHOLIC NEWSPAPER
General of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN), Rev. Fr. Michael Ekpenyong
has called for the establishment of a National Catholic Newspaper to enhance
communication evangelisation in the country pointing out that evangelisation
does not contradict democracy.
made the call in his address at the official opening ceremony of the workshop
organised by the CSN Directorate of Social Communications and the Justice,
Development, Peace/Caritas unit of the Church and Society Department of the CSN,
for diocesan Directors of Social Communications and Catholic Media Practitioners
held at DRACC, Lugbe, Abuja, from Monday, March 26 to Wednesday, March 28, 2007.
The theme of the workshop was Communication Evangelisation as Pivot of
General contended:“The Social Communication department of the Catholic
Secretariat of Nigeria must coordinate the production and dissemination of
Church programmes through national media, PRINT MEDIA. Dioceses and provinces
should endevour to maintain their local newspapers and there is the need to
establish a National Catholic Newspaper. Basic principles of mass communication
and the effective use of the media should be incorporated into the seminary and
other houses of formation curriculum of studies”.
regretting that Catholics have not used the media effectively, Fr. Ekpenyong
stressed the need to evangelize modern communication technology. (See text on
participants, the Nuncio, Archbishop Renzo Fratini reiterated his call for
Nigerians to be more positive about Nigeria
despite the present political, economic and social problems, particularly the
issue of corruption. He advocated the need to eschew pessimism. He commended the
communication work of the Church in the country and expressed the gratitude of
the Church for the diocesan Communication Directors and Catholic Media
Practitioners for their untiring efforts in the evangelisation work of the
Church. The representative of Altai Jabirus Ahmed, INEC Resident Electoral
Commissioner for Abuja, Mr. O Anderson described communication as the life wire
of any social existence and urged all media practitioners and Nigerians in
general to cooperate with INEC to ensure that the coming elections are
successful adding that the body has put in place all necessary infrastructures
to ensure the success of the elections.
participants, the CSN Director of Social Communications, Rev. Fr. Ralph Madu
stressed the need for diocesan Directors of Social Communications and Catholic
Media practitioners to cooperate and collaborate to ensure the success of
communication evangelisation work of the Church in the country assuring that the
Catholic Secretariat will continue to do all within its power to facilitate
things. The Chairman of the Association of Diocesan Directors of Social
Communications, Rev. Fr. Patrick Tor Alumuku remarked that the media has a major
role to play in ensuring a free and fair election in the country.
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Directorate of Social Communications and the Justice, Development, Peace/Caritas
unit of the Church and Society Department of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria
(CSN) organised a 2-day workshop for Diocesan Directors of Social Communications
and Catholic Media Practitioners at the Divine Love Recreation And Conference
Centre (DRACC), Lugbe, Abuja, between
March 26 and 28, 2007.
was part of the sensitization programme of the JDPC to prepare the various
stakeholders for the April General elections.The theme of the workshop was
Communication Evangelisation as Pivot of Sustainable Democracy. About
thirty participants from all the provinces attended the workshop.
started with a High Mass said by the Bishop of Minna Diocese, Most Rev. Martin
Uzoukwu. In his homily, Bishop Uzoukwu stressed the importance of communication
to the evangelisation work of the Church and urged the participants to make the
best use of the opportunities offered by the workshop to enhance their work.
While wishing them a successful deliberation, he prayed that Mother Mary will
guide them in all their actions and activities to enhance the evangelisation
work of the Church.
ceremony of the workshop was addressed by the Nuncio, Archbishop Renzo Fratini,
The Secretary General of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN) Rev. Fr.
Michael Ekpenyong, the representative of the Resident Electoral Commissioner fir
INEC in Abuja, Alhaji Kabiru Ahmed, Rev. Fr. Ralph Madu, Director of Social
Communications, CSN and Rev. Fr. Patrick Tor Alumuku, the Chairman of the
Association of Diocesan Directors of Social Communications.
At the end of
the workshop the following communiqué signed by Rev Fr Ralph Madu, Director of
Social Communications, Rev. Fr Patrick Tor Alumuku and Rev. Fr. Louis Fowoyo,
Chairman and Secretary of the association, respectively was issued.
of the Association of Diocesan Directors of Social Communications and Catholic
Media Professionals had a two-day workshop at Daughters of Divine Love Retreat
and Conference Centre (DRACC), Sabon-Lugbe Abuja from 26-28 March, 2007. After
successfully deliberating on the theme: Communication Evangelization As Pivot Of
Sustainable Democracy, we issue the following communiqué.
The Church in Nigeria
has been using the means of Social Communication for Evangelization. Also, in
recent times, she has organized workshops, seminars, and lectures at different
levels and different groups of people in preparation for the forth-coming
general elections. These are signs of hope and active participation by the
Church in national development.
carry out her responsibility as an agent of evangelization, the Nigerian
Church as part of the Universal Church is encouraged to invest in the means of
social communications, especially electronic, visual, and audio media.
commend the efforts of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to
assuage the anxiety of people as regards conducting free and fair elections in
April 2007, we wish to however, call on the media to help in the effective
monitoring of the electoral process and provide balanced cum objective reporting
of the election results. We also appeal to the security agents working with INEC
to be more diligent in making sure that the proper conducts of elections are
encouraging to note that more dioceses are looking on to the World Wide Web
(WWW). We recommend that all dioceses in Nigeria should consider the need for a
web site. Such, we feel will enhance effective networking for evangelization
We continue to pay for a sustainable democracy in our country Nigeria,
especially as we venture into a new democratic dispensation.
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TEXT OF THE INTERNATIONAL PRESS CONFERENCE ADDRESSED BY THE
PRESIDENT OF THE CATHOLIC BISHOPS’ CONFERENCE OF NIGERIA (CBCN),
MOST REV DR FELIX ALABA JOB ON THE FINDINGS OF THE JDPC AT THE
COMPLETION OF THE 2007 GENERAL ELECTIONS HELD ON SATURDAY, APRIL 14,
2007 (GUBERNATORIAL AND STATES ASSEMBLY) AND APRIL 21 (PRESIDENTIAL
AND NATIONAL ASSEMBLY) HELD AT THE CONFERENCE HALL OF THE CATHOLIC
SECRETARIAT OF NIGERIA (CSN) LAGOS ON TUESDAY APRIL 24, 2007 AT 2
The Challenges of our
At the meeting
of the CBCN in 2005, we the Catholic Bishops of Nigeria gave the
mandate to the JDPC of the Catholic Church of Nigeria to observe the
2007 elections. The JDPC at their meeting in Abakiliki (2005) took
up the challenge as they had done in 1999 and 2003, and mobilized
about 30, 000 men and women as observers.
On behalf of
the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria, we welcome you to this
World Press Conference. The elections have now been partially
completed since INEC is still conducting elections in some parts of
the country. The desire of every Nigerian had been to promote a
successful transition from one civilian administration to another as
a means of ensuring sustainable democracy in our polity. This press
conference is a follow-up on the one of last Monday, in which I
presented a summary of the preliminary reports of the 30, 000
accredited observers who were trained and deployed by JDPC to
observe the elections.
At the last
press conference we commended the performance of the electorate who,
in spite of the many lapses of INEC, intimidation by some
politicians and their agents as well as harassment by some security
agents, comported themselves becomingly and performed their civic
duties. In the same respect, those, who for one reason or the other
could not cast their votes returned to their homes peacefully at the
end of the exercise.
remarked that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)
conducted the elections on schedule as far as dates are concerned.
This however never connoted that we gave the INEC Chairman,
Professor Maurice Iwu and his team a pat on the back “for a job well
done.” We noted that the Governorship and State Houses of Assembly
elections were generally fraught with discrepancies and
irregularities which disenfranchised many legitimate voters in many
parts of the country. Some of these lapses were outlined in our
statement and we called on INEC to go back to the drawing board and
block the loopholes before the crucial presidential and National
Assembly elections. It is very unfortunate that neither INEC, nor
the government heeded our call to provide better logistics, tighter
security for the ballot boxes and the electorate. We never seem to
learn from the past.
ISSUES ARISING FROM THE ELECTIONS
As we promised
last Monday, April 16, 2007; today, we present the comprehensive
report of the findings of the JDPC on the field in respect of all
the elections - Governorship, States Houses of Assembly,
Presidential and National Assembly elections. This is also an
occasion to articulate the stand of the Catholic Church on the
outcome of the elections so far.
from our observers indicate that we have again failed in conducting
free, fair and credible elections. The reports from across the
country show that the mandate of the people was abused, traumatized
significant challenge to our nascent democracy involves the
development of effective strategies for strengthening the
institutions of the state in such a manner that they will be able to
withstand the shocks of the democratic process. This challenge is
particularly important for such institution as INEC.
In effect, the
evidence from the just concluded general elections in the country
demonstrates that INEC was visibly deficient in logistics and
preparations for the elections. This is confirmed by the evidence of
ineffective mastery of the process and technology which are
constitutive ingredients of the electoral process, which we shall
show from our observations.
On their own
part, politicians have, in general, not shown respect for the peace
and stability of the country to the extent that the inviolability of
the country was endangered.
It should be
admitted that we can no longer persist in the deceit of styling our
country a democracy whereas only a handful of the political elite
decide the outcome of electoral processes, which in themselves
constitute the pillar of the practice of democracy. It is important
that Nigerians must reconsider if it is still reasonable to continue
to maintain the fiction that our public life is ordered according to
republican values whereas it is only a tiny cabal that in reality,
parcel the nation’s resources among themselves.
obviously evident that Nigerians should no longer afford to tolerate
this level of vulgar disenfranchisement which is a blatant rape on
protests, arson, violence and wanton destruction of lives and
property which followed the announcements of the results of the
gubernatorial and State Houses of Assembly elections of Saturday,
April 14, 2007, clearly showed that the results did not reflect the
voting and wishes of the people. There were indications of blatant
rigging and falsification of election results with the connivance of
some INEC officials, security agents and political thugs. This was
particularly done in the states where the ruling party claimed
questionable victories over other parties.
people had to protest, unfortunately with violence, to force the
reversal of their stolen mandate.
In the overall
conduct of this year’s election, the following problems were
observed. These include (a) ineffective movement of election
materials which gave room for massive rigging practically
everywhere, (b) voter frustration which came because after the
voting exercise, the people discovered that their votes did not
count which meant that the candidates had already bee chosen. (c)
The result sheets were simply passed round to the politicians who
filled in whatever numbers they chose. (d) The returning officers
were heavily bribed and so were many political agents. (e) The
voters were not given the freedom required for open secret
balloting. (f) There was rampant violence at election venues which
had intimidating effect on the electorate
observations show that the security agents, especially the Police
also facilitated electoral irregularities during the elections. In
many polling booths, the police was partisan and lost its
traditional role of being the friend of the people. As was reported
by our men and women on the field, most of the polling boots were
manned by only one police man or woman. Thus in most cases, the
people had to provide security for themselves. But where this could
not be possible, thugs hired by politicians invaded the polling
boots and/or injuring innocent people who wanted to defend their
votes and snatching their ballot boxes. One wonders what the many
arms and ammunitions, vehicles and other security equipment acquired
by the Federal and some State Governments for the police were meant
some of the country’s political leaders in their desperation to win
at all costs adopted unethical, undemocratic, and in some cases
crude methods to win the elections. This showed that they have not
learnt anything from the mistakes of the past. Their actions showed
that their personal interests and greed override their commitment to
service. The urge to win at all cost was a clear indication that
most of them have hidden agenda. The outcome of these elections has
thrown more light on why some leaders saw the elections as a
do-or-die affair. It is unfortunate that only the innocent people
have lost their lives while these leaders are still plying their
trade of clinging to power at all cost.
civilized society, the power of incumbency plays a vital role in a
transition exercise. Apart from the paraphernalia of office and
control of administration, the government in power can influence the
people through the implementation of people-oriented programmes that
provide good and conducive living atmosphere, e.g. qualitative
education, good health services and provision of necessary
infrastructures. A government that provides these gets an
endorsement for continuity from the electorate. But where the
incumbent fails to live up to the expectations of the people in this
respect, the election provides an opportunity for the people to try
use of the power of incumbency to obtain victory at all cost is
definitely undemocratic and a clog in the development of a country.
We the Catholic Bishops of Nigeria warn that a “democratic regime”
with a weak opposition does not create a necessary environment for
critical look into good governance.
FOR A CREDIBLE OPPOSITION
It is an irony
that since the demise of the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, late Dr
Nnamdi Azikiwe, late Ahmadu Bello and late Tafawa Balewa, most of
their disciples have abandoned the noble cause these elder statesmen
stood for. They have joined the ruling party to share in the
national cake. It has been a case of if you cannot beat them,
join them. This is a very unfortunate situation. The ruling
party has taken advantage of no opposition to perpetrate their
devious actions in the last elections. The last minute attempt by
opposition parties to form a granite alliance was indeed a late hour
misconception, hence, it crashed along the way. The opposition and
indeed the new government to be must realize that the winner
takes-all syndrome does not augur well for democratic governance. It
is our sincere hope that the opposition would have learnt their
lessons, go back to the drawing board, realign forces and engage the
government in a matured, constructive, and positive manner.
We want to use
this opportunity to thank the Judiciary for living above board in
this crucial time of our political history.
hope that the judiciary remains steadfast in this position and that
the Election Tribunals will uphold the tenets of justice and
fairness and adjudicate expeditiously on election petitions that are
being brought before them. We urge such tribunals to give justice
speedily, for justice delayed will be justice denied.
commend the Nigerian press for its sustained commitment to the cause
of democracy, rule of law and due process in our country. There is
no doubt that the Nigerian press has come of age even in the face of
some daring challenges. We therefore encourage the press to continue
to promote national ideals through impartial, critical and
Nigerians must in a constitutional and dignified manner come
together to resist any form of dictatorship, domination and
subversion of their rights. We must defend our political rights as a
The Church will continue its campaign for the development of
the culture of democracy and good governance in this country to
ensure transparency and accountability.
We will continue to mobilize, sensitize and educate the
people on the need for peaceful, credible, free and fair democratic
We strongly appeal that all the Resident Electoral
Commissioners and other personnel of INEC, Government, political
parties or the security agents who were found to have facilitated
electoral malpractices and other irregularities should be brought to
All the people apprehended and found to be with dangerous
weapons during the conduct of the elections should be tried in the
court of law and be sanctioned no matter how highly placed they may
The country has witnessed free flow and possession of arms
and other dangerous weapons over the past months. Efforts must be
made to disarm all those in possession of firearms who threaten and
terrorize innocent citizens with these weapons.
The mass education of the people on social and democratic
issues should commence immediately after these elections, while the
issue of logistics especially the transportation of election
materials before and after voting should be given critical
In the future we recommend the staggering of the elections to
give INEC the opportunity for better logistics.
I should conclude by indicating that
the 2007 general elections have confirmed that Nigerians are faced
with serious challenges in the process of practicing real democracy.
These challenges include:
The building of the capacity of the institutions of state in
such a manner that no individual or groups can assail them in their
quest for power.
There is need to strengthen and amend our electoral laws and
the 1999 constitution in the light of our 2007 elections.
We continue to say that there is need to promote and sustain
an enduring morality in our country that will form the basis for
social, economic and political encounters both in the public and in
the private spheres of life.
Gentlemen of the press, I thank you
for coming and may God bless all your efforts and all well meaning
Thank you and God bless our country
Most Rev. Dr. Felix Alaba
Job Most Rev. Dr. Joseph
Chairman, Bishops’ Committee:
Church and Society, CBCN
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WORLD COMMUNICATIONS DAY
Sunday May 20, 2007,
is the 42nd World Communications Day, a day when we pray
for all who work in the media that they will uphold truth and human
dignity in all that they do, and for good use of the media in the
service of the gospel. It is celebrated in most countries on the
recommendation of the Bishops of the world on the Sunday before
Pentecost (in 2007, May 20).
The Church intends
by this celebration which was the only worldwide celebration
proposed by the Second Vatican Council (inter mirifica
1963) and was inaugurated by Pope Paul VI in 1967 to “draw the
attention of her children and all men of good will to the vast and
complex phenomenon of the modern means of social communication, such
as the press, motion pictures, radio and television, which form one
of the most characteristic notes of modern civilization”. Also
challenging today as modern means of communication is the internet
which was the theme of the 2002 World Communications Day
The Holy Father
chooses a theme for the celebration every year the announcement of
which is usually made on Sept.29, the Feast of the Archangels
Michael, Raphael and Gabriel, who has been designated as the Patron
of those who work in radio. The message of the Pope for World
Communication Day is normally published in conjunction with the
memorial of St Francis de Sales, patron of writers (Jan. 24). The
theme for this year’s celebration is Children and Media: A
Challenge for Education.
By choosing this
theme the Holy Father underlines the fact that “the church herself,
in the light of the message of Salvation entrusted to her, is also a
teacher of humanity and welcomes the opportunity to offer assistance
to parents, educators, communicators, and young people” (no 4).
In the message, Pope
Benedict XVI describes the formation of Children by the media and
the formation of Children to respond appropriately to the media.
Since the media
exerts great influence on Children and on our cultural environment,
parents, schools and the wider community should ensure that Children
properly discriminate and are prudent in their use of the media.
This objective is realized by “training the conscience of their
children to express sound and objective judgment which will then
guide them in choosing or rejecting programs available”(no 2).
Media education should be positive and requires formation in the
exercise of freedom. The Pope warns that freedom should not be
“presented as a relentless search for pleasure or new experiences”
(no 2). “Authentic freedom is experienced as a definitive response
to God’s “yes” to humanity, calling us to choose, not
indiscriminately, but deliberately, all
that is good, true
and beautiful” (no.2). The Holy Father further warned against any
trend to produce programs, animated films, video games, and products
which in the name of entertainment encourage violence, anti-social
attitude, and the trivialization of human sexuality. These, the Pope
said, are “all the more repulsive when directed at children and
that many communicators strive to do their work faithfully and in
the right manner, the Holy Father also observed that often times
they are under enormous and sometimes unreasonable pressures,
confronted by difficult decisions. He therefore warned against the
dangers of lowering standards for commercial gains.
In most dioceses in
Nigeria the celebration of the World Communications Day brings
together Catholic journalists and other press officers from the
various media houses both broadcast and print to pray for all who
work in the media and to reflect on the Pope’s message. During the
ceremony which generally begins with the Holy Mass, they and their
instruments – pens, still and video cameras, cassettes etc, are
blessed. Also a special collection is taken for the significant work
of the social communications services in promoting the Catholic
message in all forms of media.
Rev. Fr. Ralph Madu
Most Rev. Dr. V. Chikwe
Bishop of Ahiara
Catholic Secretariat of
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