As Nigerians prepare for the 2019 general elections, the Catholic Bishops of Nigeria have called on all eligible voters to ensure that they are equipped with their voter’s card and to reject acts of selling and buying of votes.
The Bishops said Nigerian voters must be wise enough to show politicians, who may have so much to hide, that “they can run, but they cannot hide.”
The call was contained in an eight-point communiqué issued at the end of the Second Plenary meeting of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), held at Pinnacle Guest Inn and Resort, Sokoto, Sokoto State, 6-14 September 2018.
The Bishops insist that it is the right of Nigerians to fully participate in the electoral process without intimidation and violence. “The responsibility for this lies on all of us. We demand that the choice of the electorate, once made, be respected by all”, they said.
The Church leaders explained that “although elections are not enough to enthrone good governance, they are an important stage in that project. And unless we get our electoral process right, elections in Nigeria will only become expensive cosmetic exercises that legitimize corruption and ineptitude”.
They urged the legislatures to enact good laws and abrogate bad ones, so as to ensure order, safety, good conduct and safeguard the Common Good.
“We also enjoin the judiciary not to allow itself to be used as an instrument of subjugation, oppression, discrimination, and injustice”, the Bishops said.
While recognizing that it is the role of Governments at all levels to provide policies for national development, in the areas of economy, politics, provision of social amenities, security, etc, the prelates explained that all forms of pursuit of national interest should be guided by the rule of law and respect for human dignity.
“We observe with deep sadness how unarmed Nigerians are brutally slaughtered, owing to religious and political differences, boundary disputes, and other such reasons. We equally observe that government is often slow in responding to these violent occurrences and often allows many of the perpetrators of these heinous crimes to go unpunished, thus creating a culture of impunity. We totally condemn these killings and call on government to defend the life and property of every Nigerian citizen”.
In keeping with the provisions of the nations’ Constitution regarding freedom of religion, the Bishops urged governments at all levels to respect the rights of citizens and groups to practise their religions unhindered.
“In this spirit, governments should make it possible for religious groups to acquire land for the building of places of worship, schools, hospitals and social welfare facilities whenever the need arises”, the Bishops said.
The Church leaders invited all to be attentive to the aspirations of the young people, especially those among them who are poor, internally displaced, victims of exploitation, orphans, and migrants. “We are saddened by the evils of human trafficking, slavery, drug abuse, war, disease, disability, and illiteracy and shall continue to work for their eradication, especially among our youth”.