2 July 2016
More than 7,000 Catholic faithful engaged in a 20-kilometre walk on Saturday from the Holy Ghost Catholic Cathedral in Enugu to Government House and back to press a demand for the jettisoning of the National Grazing Reserve Bill being touted at the National Assembly.
The peaceful walk culminated in the presentation of a letter of demand to the Enugu State governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, for onward delivery to the Federal Government.
Addressing the faithful at Government House, the Catholic Bishop of Enugu Diocese, Most Rev. Callistus Onaga, said it was only reasonable and pat drop bill so as to forestall ethnic clashes and crises in the country.
He said that Nigerians were already suffering much on account of the present economic hardship and free grazing in communities in the south of the country would further compound the hardship.
Onaga, who spoke on behalf of Catholic bishops in Nsukka and Awgu Dioceses, noted that approval of the bill would amount to government abdicating its responsibility of providing security for the people.
He said: “as responsible citizens, clergymen, spiritual leaders and opinion leaders, we have been praying about and deliberating on these mounting challenges.
“At the end of a long prayer session with the members of our flock and after careful consultations with thoughtful men and women across the state, we have come to the following conclusions:
“That the free grazing of cattle in our area has now become a threat not only to the growing of crops, which is the mainstay of our sedentary people, but also to our lives.
“That the nomadic lifestyle makes policing and the pursuit of criminals much more complex and hazardous.’’
The bishop urged community leaders to refrain from entering into agreements with herdsmen or with any other groups of persons that would create room for tension and crisis.
He said: “we would advise that all such agreements already in existence be renegotiated in a way that would ensure justice for all the parties.
“Finally, may we all intensify our prayers for peace, unity and harmony in Nigeria, while resolving to collaborate with God’s grace in making it a great country.’’
Responding, Gov. Ugwuanyi lauded the Church for the peaceful procession as well as for organising the faithful in an orderly manner.
Ugwuanyi assured the bishops that he would deliver their message to President Muhammadu Buhari.
The governor, however, enjoined residents of the state to be law-abiding and to work for a harmonious coexistence between all Nigerians irrespective of religion, tribe and profession.
“We owe it a duty to God as Christians to all be our brothers’ keepers and to show unconditional love to everyone even where we feel aggrieved.’’