By Bridget Ikyado
Abuja – The Catholic Church has tasked the Federal Government to provide enabling environment for citizens to exercise their franchise in 2023, devoid of violence, intimidation, vote buying and vote selling.
This is contained in a communique issued at the end of the church’s 3rd National Pastoral Congress held in Benin.
The communique was made available to newsmen by Padre Mike-Nsikak Umoh, the National Director of Social Communications, on Thursday in Abuja.
“These electoral anomalies harm the democratic process as they contribute to depriving citizens the freedom to make informed choices at elections, by making the process less credible,” it added.
It also urged the government to provide adequate security to enable citizens to come out and exercise their franchise.
The church advised citizens to vote candidates of credibility and integrity who have demonstrated the capacity to pilot the affairs of the nation in a responsible and corrupt-free manner.
It also urged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to ensure that the electoral process “is just, transparent, open, free, fair and credible”.
“INEC, as a genuine umpire, must be neutral and objective and not favour any parties but apply the laws and principles to all in a fair and equitable manner,” it added.
The communique said campaigns should be idea-based devoid of bitterness and unhealthy rivalry.
“Political candidates for the election should avail citizens of their electoral manifestoe, including strategies for achieving set goals and objectives.
“It is hoped that political office holders would support their manifestoe with strategies to achieve set targets and actually pursue those goals when elected to office.”
The church reminded Nigerians to hold political office holders accountable.
“On this, Civil Society Organisations should play active roles through advocacy and enlightenment,” it added.
The church expressed concern over the bad shape of the economy, including high cost of energy and staple foods amidst decline in the purchasing power of citizens.
“Government should devise a strategy that makes fuel and other petroleum products available, accessible and affordable,” it added.
It described the new government policy of Naira redesign aimed at curbing inflation and fighting corruption and terrorism, as a lofty idea.
It , however , said that the Naira redesign alone would not provide the needed reprieve for the economy and address the hydra-headed problems of corruption and terrorism.
The church therefore said the “redesigned naira must be accompanied by strong institutional frameworks and laws.
“Such as an effective policing system, tracking and timely prosecution of corrupt persons and strengthening the security agencies to properly police Nigeria’s borders to prevent the influx of armed bandits from other countries.”
On flooding and other environmental issues, the church said Nigeria should replicate the positive recommendations of the 27th UN Climate Change Conference.
According to the communique, serious ecological problems such as the recent monumental flooding, are largely as a result of lack of care for the environment.
“We call on government at all levels to take concrete steps in responding to these challenges.
“We advocate for a more effective and efficient emergency response strategy.
“The construction of more dams all over the country while overhauling and expanding the capacity of the dams available at the moment for better water management.
“We earnestly urge all Nigerians to embrace healthy lifestyle and environmentally friendly attitudes in disposing of wastes arising from human activities.”
The church advised Nigerians to continue to put their trust in God.
“Let us not yield to despair and cynicism which would eventually lead to indifferentism and lethargy that breeds hopelessness and despondency.
“Trusting in God’s help, let us continue working towards the Nigeria of our dream as we turn to God in prayer.”
It prayed God to strip Nigerians of greed, corruption, and impunity, as well as unjust tendencies and fraudulent practices.
The church also prayed that God will “rid us of all the evils that plague our nation and grant us your lasting peace, joy and hope.”
On the church activities, the communique called for a well-represented pastoral council in all parishes as a way of creating space, more room for dialogue and participation.
“In a synodal Church, ways must be devised by which those in the periphery such as the non-literate, materially poor and the quiet members of the Church can be heard.”
It called for a well-developed programme, which should include a curriculum on catholic education for mission schools.
The church pledged continuous dialogue with Muslims and other faith in fighting corruption, ethnocentrism, terrorism, banditry, social injustice, poverty, drug abuse.
It also pledged to work with other faith groups in fostering good governance, free, fair and credible elections.
The communique was signed by the President of Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria, Most Rev. Lucius-Iwejuru Ugorji, and Secretary, Most Rev. Donatus-Aihmiosion Ogun. (NAN/vitalnewsngr.com)