By Sam Eyoboka
LAGOS – CATHOLIC Archbishop of Lagos, Most Rev. Alfred Adewale Martins has called on the nation’s law enforcement agencies to intensify efforts into the rescue of several reverend sisters who were kidnapped from the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus Convent in Iguoriakhi in Edo State by gunmen on November 14 in Edo State.
Condemning the increased spate of kidnapping in the country, Martins, at a press conference at the Holy Cross Cathedral hall in Lagos, to mark this year’s World Day of Peace, said that it was dangerous for the sisters being women to still be in the hands of their captors after 48 days.
“Today is the 48th day that the sisters have been in the hands of the kidnappers, so it has been a big source of worry and concern knowing that they are women,” he said, adding that the Benin archdiocese had been in collaboration with security agencies in the state and the country as well as the state government to secure their release.
“It is really disheartening that in spite of all their efforts, the sisters are still there in bondage. It is disheartening that the security agencies have not been able to get the sisters out and one wonders why this is the case.
“We still do hope that the security agencies would do much more than is being done now in order to ensure that the sisters are released,” he said.
Answering questions on the state of the nation, the Archbishop lamented the plight of Nigerians, just as he called on President Muhammadu Buhari to tackle the issue of poverty and hunger ravaging the nation.
“What we can see very clearly is that the poverty level in our country is very high, we sit in our offices as priests and we come in contact with the ordinary people who are really undergoing the pains of the problems of our economy.
“And we see them everyday coming to ask for even the smallest things that one can imagine. Therefore it hits us very straight in the face when we come in contact with these people. So, obviously, it means that the governments at all levels need to do a lot more than is being done right now.
“We were told that the economy was in recession and that it is out of recession now, of course, the economists can tell us more about that but what we know is that it doesn’t seem to be making as much impact on the day-to-day lives of Nigerians. And that is where the test of whether we are in recession or not is,” he said.
The Archbishop called on the Federal Government to use all its material and human resources to cushion the effects of the hardship to safeguard the lives and well being of Nigerians, enjoining the Presidency to be explicit in its explanations to Nigerians on the $1 billion being requested from the excess crude account as funds needed to fight insurgency.
Martins further explained that although Nigerians had confidence in the integrity of President Muhammadu Buhari, there were still sceptics who may doubt the sincerity of using the money to fight terrorism due to previous experiences in the nation.
“We are very cynical now given the experiences we have had over the years about government generally spending monies,” he said, stressing that inadequate explanation was the reason some people were suspicious that the money were intended for electioneering campaigns since it was not routed through the 2018 budget.
Commenting on the plight of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Nigeria and other Nigerians being sold into slavery in foreign nations, the cleric said the church had various organisations reaching out to them to cushion their plight.
He added that the church was also collaborating with various government agencies to reach out and alleviate sufferings of IDPs in line with the visions of the Pope.
Referring to the Pope’s MeMartinis World Day of Peace which focused on issues of Migrants and Refugees: Men and Women in Search of Peace, Martins said that if the Nigerian government should ensure even and appropriate distribution of the nation’s resources to discourage illegal migration.
He said that the Pope’s message was timely as it addressed issues youths migrating from Nigeria and perishing on the Mediterranean Sea and the deserts, adding “It is the duty of every country to discourage illegal migration,” he said.
Pope Francis in his 2018 World Day of Peace message tagged; ‘Migrants and Refugees: Men and Women in search of Peace” which was read by Prof. Pat Utomi said that 22.5 million of the world’s population were refugees in search of a peaceful place to live and risked a lot in the process.
“In a spirit of compassion, let us embrace all those fleeing from war and hunger, or forced by discrimination, persecution, poverty and environmental degradation to leave their homelands,” the Pope said.
Pope Francis urged the world to pay attention to refugees and migrants quoting various scriptures on need to accommodate foreigners.
He identified the causes of migration and highlighted a four pact action plan for the Catholic Church, United Nations, individuals and governments to cushion the hardship of refugees and migrants.
The World Peace Day is set aside annually to spread the gospel of peaceful co-existence amongst peoples of the world.
The event began with a Holy Mass at the Holy Cross Cathedral with the Archbishop of Lagos, Most Rev Dr. Alfred Adewale Martins as the Chief Celebrant, and he was assisted by the Director of Social Communicators, Msgr. Gabriel Osu.
The event also witness the full participation of members of Catholic Media Practitioners Association of Nigeria (CAMPAN), Papal Knights/Medalists and some government officials.