By Ononye VC
Catholic Bishops of Owerri Ecclesiastical Province has, at its first plenary of 2022, expressed concern at the seemingly endless sit-at-home order in Igboland, every Monday.
Vanguard reports that it was part of the five-point communiqué, issued by the Catholic Bishops, signed by the Chairman and Secretary, Most Rev. Anthony J. V. Obinna and Most Rev Augustine N. Echema respectively, and made available to newsmen in Owerri.
In the considered opinion of the Bishops: “For sometime now, the people of South East Nigeria, have been forced to sit-at-home on frequent occasions. The situation has become so confusing because some of these orders and counter orders are now being issued and enforced by criminal elements.
“These sit-at-home orders are however, having a devastating effect on the economic and social life of the people, and adversely affecting their means of livelihood.”
Making particular reference to education in the South East geo-political zone, the bishops opined that it took a serious hit.
They said: “Children are kept out of school and learning is carried out under the climate of fear and uncertainty. This status quo cannot be allowed to continue.
“We appeal to the government to fulfill its constitutional duty of protecting lives and property and to initiate avenues of dialogue with agitators. We equally appeal to all those indiscriminately issuing orders, to respect the fundamental human rights of those they seek to protect and fight for.”
The Bishops also lamented the frequency of borrowings by federal and state governments, to finance budget shortfalls, as well as the sit-at-home order.
The Bishops said: “We observe with great concern, the frequency with which the Federal and State Governments resort to taking loans, especially foreign ones, to finance their budget shortfalls.
“At the last count, the Bureau of Statistics in Nigeria has reported that Nigeria currently, is indebted up to the tune of N32 trillion.
“While we recognize the economic need, and sometimes, the necessity of government taking loans, we insist that every responsible Nigerian government must exercise prudence in the borrowing and management of such loans, so as not to mortgage the future of the nation since by and large, loans must be repaid.”
The clerics also lamented that for so long, the problems facing the country, have remained intractable and the solutions farfetched.
They said: “Today in Nigeria, we are witnessing terrible darkness in the shape of unreasonable hatred, wickedness, brutality, and bloodshed.
“With the consequent breakdown and failure of governance across the nation, various militant groups terrorists, and bandits emerged, foisting a state of anxiety and anarchy, on the whole nation.
“Hate and greed-driven violence have thus escalated, leading to the reciprocal mass slaughter of humans, the sacking and burning of homes and settlements, giving rise to many Internally Displaced Persons, IDP. This miserable condition must be addressed before the next elections begin.”
After taking a critical look at the nation’s electoral process, the Catholic Bishops expressed hope that Nigerians have another chance to lay the frameworks for the next electoral process.
In their words: “We are hopeful that the National Assembly and the Presidency, will put aside their differences and come forward with electoral laws that will help us chart a new pathway that will guarantee free, fair and credible general elections.”
Economic, vehicular, human activities resume in S-East
Meantime, commercial and business activities have returned fully to most cities in the South East in total disregard of the Monday sit-at-home order.
Onitsha and Nnewi, the commercial city and industrial towns, respectively of Anambra State, yesterday, witnessed increasing vehicular and human movements as people did not sit at home in compliance with weekly order being observed in Anambra State.
Even as normal human and vehicular movements returned to Onitsha and Nnewi, the Anambra State government and leaders of the markets in the two cities of the state did not open the markets, just as banks and other government-owned institutions like hospitals and primary health care centres, schools and other public utilities remained under lock and key.
Commercial buses and tricycles operators were everywhere on the streets and roads in Onitsha and Nnewi rendering their normal services as passengers boarded them to their respective destinations.
Street shops and private offices located in Onitsha and Nnewi were open for business just as petty traders who deal in foodstuffs within and outside Onitsha and those located in Nnewi and its environs were all seen in full operation.
However, major markets in Onitsha and Nnewi were under lock and key. A trader in one of the major markets in Nnewi who spoke with Vanguard accused the government and leaders of the market of being unconcerned towards opening the markets for traders to do their businesses on Mondays.
It was a different story at Awka,Anambra State as unknown enforcers threatened traders, transporters with letters.
It was revealed that one of the reasons for the continued sustenance of the weekly sit-at-home in parts of the South East was due to letters allegedly written to heads of market unions and transport operators with threats of grievous consequences if they disobeyed the order.
Some communities in Anambra State also confirmed that they received such letters although they did not know the authors.
Similarly, a driver in one of the transport companies operating the Awka – Onitsha route said that but for the anonymous letters they received every weekend preceding Mondays, they would have been doing their businesses as usual.
It was gathered that most market leaders in the over 60 major markets received such letters, which explained why they do not open the gates of their markets on Mondays.
However, many traders ignored the letters by opening their markets, arguing that the weekly sit-at-home is adversely affecting them and their families.