Bishops of the Catholic Ecclesiastical Province of Owerri, Imo State, have described leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, as a metaphor for political exclusion and marginalisation
Meanwhile, as the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, today resumes the trial of Nnamdi Kanu, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, has cautioned against any form of intimidation, oppression and arrest of members of the Biafra separatist group or their sympathizers.
Also, special counsel to Nnamdi Kanu, Mr Aloy Ejimakor has advised security agents not to restrict or molest Kanu’s supporters expected to throng the Federal High Court, Abuja, today in a show of solidarity as Kanu’s trial resumes.
The Bishops, meanwhile, also advised the Federal Government to handle the growing issue of agitation with care, because the world is keenly watching the happenings.
A communiqué at the end of their meeting at Ahiara, Mbaise, Imo State by the Metropolitan Archbishop of Owerri, Most Rev. Anthony Obinna, Chairman, and Most Rev. Augustine Echema, Secretary, said: “His (Kanu) recent arrest is an opportunity for the government to initiate dialogues on the issues of justice, equity and fairness that underpin the agitation of his group and the agitation of other groups, like the one led by Sunday Adeyemo, popularly called Igboho, for the Yoruba nation, calling for self-determination and restructuring.
“It is worthy of note that the re-arrest of Nnamdi Kanu, will not end such agitations. The mismanagement of his case and any other will trigger avoidable unrest.
“We wish to state that the world is watching how the Federal Government is handling the case of the leader of IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu, who stands as a metaphor for political exclusion and marginalization.
“The government will be enhancing security and peace by facilitating youth empowerment, ensuring regular payment of salaries and pensions, and putting in place basic physical and social infrastructures. When most of the people in society fall below the poverty index, tensions, conflicts and restiveness are bound to arise.
“Likewise, when the will of the electorate is frustrated through rigged elections, violence naturally erupts. We, therefore, state loud and clear that by passing a bill recently against the transmission of the results of elections by electronic means, both chambers of the National Assembly have created room for the manipulation of electoral votes and laid the foundation for bloody conflicts in the future general elections.”
Addressing the issue of freedom of expression, which the Bishops termed “indispensable element of a true democracy”, the clerics said: “The media, whether electronic, print or the modern social communication technologies like the social media are important tools for freedom of expression.”
Further, they said: “However, abuse does not destroy us. The media remain the Fourth Estate of the Realm and an indispensable element of a true and peaceful democracy. We are aware of the anxiety that led the government to propose two Bills before the National Assembly: the Nigerian Press Council Bill and the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission Bill.
“Without being preemptive, it is apposite to remind the National Assembly that the right to freedom of the press and the right to freedom of expression, are primary constituents of the Bill of Human Rights. Access to information, feedback to the government and accountability by the government, are strengthened by the Independence of the media, and the right to exercise the freedom of expression and information. Nothing should be done to stifle these freedoms.”
They noted that the responsible exercise of freedom of information and expression means that the media should be used with caution and maturity.