The Catholic bishops of Onitsha Ecclesiastical Province have decried the increasing level of insecurity in the South-East, a development said to have heightened fears and restiveness among the people, especially the youths.
The bishops, comprising the Archdiocese of Onitsha, the Dioceses of Enugu, Abakaliki, Awka, Nsukka, Nnewi, Awgu and Ekwulobia, stated this in a pastoral message issued at the end of its second plenary meeting held on Tuesday, July 28, 2020, in Awka, Anambra State, titled, ‘Be courageous, I have conquered the world’.
The pastoral message read on Sunday in all the Catholic parishes under the Onitsha Province, which our correspondent monitored, was signed by Most Rev. Valerian Okeke, Archbishop of Onitsha and Most Rev. Hilary Okeke, Bishop of Nnewi, Chairman and Secretary, respectively.
While the clerics lamented that the COVID-19 pandemic had heightened the level of insecurity in the region and in other parts of the country, they charged the government at all levels and local leaders to take responsibility for safeguarding the life and property of their subjects.
“It appears that some persons with criminal intention used the period of the lockdown to stealthily move into the more remote parts of our province. Gun-carrying herders and other bandits are occupying many farmlands and forests, destroying crops, raping women, killing and kidnapping many persons.
“This has increased the level of fear and restiveness among the people, especially the youths. Food production has already been greatly compromised in our area during this planting season,” the clerics said.
They noted that the project of the “Forest Guards” embarked upon by some state governments in the South-East was a step in the right direction, warning that “a situation where the people are left to defend themselves will lead to a total breakdown of law and order.”