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Bishops at the 13th General Synod of the Church of Nigeria

National Economic Diversification: The economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is so much. Loss of income and with the continued closures of some sectors, there will be loss of jobs and retrenchments, especially, in the private sector of the economy. The SMEs must be helped with some economic stimulus so as to support our National economy. The diversification of our economy through the recent gas project is a welcome development but every section and zone must be included in a phased development. A gas development programme will help in reviving our economy in view of the dwindling oil pricing and its impact on our economy. Agriculture and the exploration of our natural minerals are two sectors that require more attention. We appreciate the efforts of the National Economic Council and the different programmes by the Central Bank of Nigeria to activate, revive and sustain our national economy. These efforts must be sustained. A sustained focus in the development of some critical sectors of the economy is needed, in order to overcome the challenges of the post-COVID-19 lockdown.

The Removal Of Fuel Subsidy And Inflation: The recent removal of the fuel subsidy and deregulation of the energy sector will further increase the suffering of the common man in Nigeria. The plight of the ordinary Nigerian is getting worse by the day. This needs to be reviewed. The essential commodities are out of the reach of the citizens and the hike in prices of goods and services coupled with unemployment is making life unbearable for Nigerians… Some regulations must be put in place that will help the people socially and economically. Industrialisation is key to mass employment for our citizens.

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Insecurity: Insecurity, violence and devastation are increasingly overtaking us in every part of this country. The politics of State Policing or the way to implement Community Policing and the regional security outfit and the issues surrounding that, show that often individual or particular group sentiments becloud the implementation of some programmes in Nigeria. Security should be the foremost task of the government but it is also the responsibility of every citizen. The involvement of different layers of security agencies by government at the different levels and proper co-ordination and legislation will definitely help in the fight against insecurity. There is need for synergy among our politicians and not time for name-calling and blame.

The laws enacted by states to ensure the security of lives and property of their citizens must be respected and should not be undermined by other groups. More than anything, sincerity of purpose and unity for the safety of lives and property for the citizens must be the over-riding goal. The unending war against insurgency and the multiplicity of violent crimes to the point that some roads and parts of the country are taken over by kidnappers and banditry is frightening. We appreciate the efforts of the Nigerian Armed Forces, the Police and all the security agencies and the ultimate price for the defence of our fatherland. We call on the government at all levels to continue to give them what they need to do their work and to take care of their welfare adequately. Together, we all shall defeat insecurity in Nigeria.

Rape, Murder And Sexual Based Violence: The incidences of rape and murder in recent times are very disturbing. When the people you know and love are victims, the pain is much more. This litany of woes must be checked and be brought to an end by legislation and law enforcement. We commend the public demonstrations by many groups against such dastardly acts. We appreciate state governments that have taken concrete steps to safeguard our girl child, boys and women against sexual violence. Our children and young people shall never be preyed upon, they must be given a secure future… rape, sexual violence and murder are against the natural law and violation of God’s Word and those who do such evil shall not inherit the Kingdom of God (Eph. 5:21).

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COVID-19 Era Challenges: … The worldwide lockdown affected everybody and everything. In Nigeria, the epicentre was Lagos State, followed by the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. The devastation disrupted everything socially, economically, educationally, health and wellbeing was most threatened. Fear of death and hunger harassed the ordinary Nigerian in spite of the assistance and palliatives given by churches, NGOs and the government. In some cities, criminality threatened to take over. The relaxation of the lockdown after three months eased movement for the citizens. The problem is that the citizens are expected to take personal responsibility for their safety. The initial lockdown policy of the Federal and state governments created a lot of socio-economic problems and almost brought the society to the point of anarchy. The palliatives by government were not enough and some discriminatory practices were seen in some places. The most confidence damaging was the politicisation of the pandemic by some state governments in order to get the money being given by the Federal Government to assist them. There were forceful isolations, which were exposed by the demonstration by those kept by some states, the rush in number in some states and the insistence by others that there were no cases there, made the ordinary citizens to doubt the genuine efforts and information being passed by government agencies.

The effect of that is the carefree attitude in wearing the face mask. While we want to live normal and free, these are uncertain times. Everybody must take responsibility and protect himself, family and friends by doing the instructions given by the NCDC, the PTF and the Ministry of Health, such as the hygienic rules, the social distancing, the stay at home and if you must go out put on the Face mask to cover your nose and mouth. This is warfare against an unseen enemy that is very subtle and dangerous. We have learnt that standing together we can defeat Coronavirus as we defeated the Ebola. The greater devastation is in finances and loss of jobs and income, but we trust God to restore to us everything that the locust of COVID had eaten or stolen. God will give us total recovery in every side.

The CAMA Law: It is necessary for us to make a clear statement concerning the controversial new power conferred on the Corporate Affairs Commission by S.839 of the amended CAMA 2020 (the Act) to obtain an order of Court, to suspend the Trustees of any religious, charitable and non for profit association in Nigeria, and appoint an interim manager or managers to manage their affairs. This merits some comment as it directly affects Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) as such an association, and its 163 Dioceses whose assets are vested in its Trustees for the time being. The stipulated conditions for such suspension … are so plainly subject to abuse.

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The Church of Nigeria supports the desire to ensure probity in all incorporated and non-incorporated bodies in Nigeria…the Church of Nigeria has consistently spoken out about the corruption that has become endemic in our nation and the need to root it out wherever it rears its cancerous head. There is admittedly a need for the Trustees of the churches to promote good and honest corporate governance within the churches through transparent accountability in the management of its affairs, given reported instances of abuses.

However, the law as it stands, enables the Commission to unilaterally obtain an Order of Court to suspend Trustees of a church, and appoint “any person” as interim manager or managers, without a guaranteed prior fair hearing of the church in response to any claim or allegation by the Commission or such minority of members. Even though the Court Order to suspend Trustees is to be obtained ‘upon the hearing of the petition’ it ought to have been categorically stated in the Act that the Commission or a minority of members cannot exercise the power unilaterally through an ex parte Court Order.

We must, therefore, draw attention to and express grievous concern over this serious lapse and the undue weakness of the due process provisions of the Act and call for an immediate review of the relevant provisions of the Act.

We also call on the Nigerian Judiciary to be vigilant in the adjudication of matters pertaining to the application of sections 839, especially as it affects Religious organizations in particular, pending the review of the relevant provisions of the Act, as is urgently being called for.

(Culled from the Presidential Address of the Anglican Primate, the Most Rev. Henry Chukwudum Ndukuba to the 13th General Synod of the Church of Nigeria)

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