Your Excellency,

The Executive Governor of Oyo State,

Senator Abiola Ajimobi,

Honourable Members of Cabinet,

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen.

Gathered here this morning is the leadership of the Catholic Archdiocese of Ibadan together with the Religious and Lay Faithful, to register our displeasure over the killings in different parts of the country which has made Nigeria a killing field - a situation which has attracted opprobrium from the comity of nations. You will recall,Your Excellency, that on 24th of April, 2018 two of our Priests namely Fr. Joseph Gor and Fr. Felix Tyolaha from Mbalom, Makurdi Diocese, Benue State along with 17 parishioners were gruesomely murdered while preparing for morning Mass on that fateful day.

We received the news with rude shock while we were on our ad limina visit to the Holy Father in Rome and we issued a very strong statement to the leadership of this country concerning that incident and many other killings that have taken place all over the country.

It will interest your Excellency, to know that until this moment that we are having this protest and Peaceful demonstration, no words of sympathy or consolation has been addressed to the Catholic community in Nigeria for our loss, which is a very serious indictment on this administration. We are baffled and highly disappointed with this insensitivity. The perpetrators of this dastardly act are human beings and not spirits from the metaphysical world; they live with us, they are in our midst. It is sickening to note that almost one month after this ugly incident, no one has been brought to book - a situation which is unacceptable.

Your Excellency today is the day fixed for the funeral ceremony of this Mbalom Martyrs.As we are here, the representatives of the leadership of the Catholic Church from the Vatican is leading fifty (50) other Bishops and numerous Priests, and religious to preside over the ceremony which will receive a worldwide coverage. You can imagine the bad impression that this media coverage in all its sensation will give to the image of our country Nigeria which is already battered in the international community. We are not only protesting this abnormality in Ibadan today, the Catholics in all the States of the Federation are doing the same.

This protest and prayerful demonstration is to register our displeasure on this killing and at the same time to call on the leadership of this country to act urgently on this. Our security apparatus and architecture must be urgently worked on to act; and if the leadership of this security agencies are not able to arrest this situation, they should be immediately relieved of their duties. We want to express openly also, our dissatisfaction with the way these killings are handled with kid gloves which gives room to suspicion of complicity between these killer-terrorists and the agencies. We insist again as we said in an earlier statement and we stand firmly on it that:

Since the president who appointed the Heads of the Nations security agencies has refused to call them to order, even in the face of the chaos and barbarity into which our country has been plunged, we are left with no choice but to conclude that they are acting a script that he has approved of. If the president cannot keep our country safe then he automatically loses the trust of the citizens. He should no longer continue to preside over the killing fields and mass graveyard that our country has become. Repeated calls from us and many other Nigerians on the president to take very drastic and urgent steps to reverse this ugly tragedy that threatens the foundation of our collective existence and unity as a nation, have fallen on deaf ears. It is clear to the nation that he has failed in his primary duty of protecting the lives of the Nigerian citizens. Whether this failure is due to inability to perform or lack of political will, it is time for him to choose the path of honor and consider stepping aside to save the nation from total collapse.

Your Excellency, there is too much suffering, intolerance and pain in our land. The land is soaked with the blood of many innocent citizens and it has become a bleeding nation. You know that we the Catholic Church are everywhere, we work with the people at the grassroots,and therefore we have first hand information about what they are going through.

Meanwhile, Elections are here again, violence has enveloped almost everywhere, with little or no interference from the security agencies. With what we have seen so far in the conduct of ward congresses in recent times, danger looms for 2019 if care is not taken. Our goodwill is fast being depleted by these glaring failures of government. We are not politicians, so we have the moral responsibility to bring this to your attention. As you know, we are peace loving people, but it should be noted that a particular group of people do not have a monopoly of violence; peace is not the absence of conflict but the presence of justice. So if we want peace in this country, let us together work for justice.

Your Excellency Sir, this is our message for you. Join us in prayer for the happy repose of the souls of our dear ones and consolation for the members of the families they left behind.

On our part, we shall continue to pray for forgiveness, justice, peace and progress of Nigeria.

Long live Oyo State, long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria!

+Gabriel Leke Abegunrin

Archbishop of Ibadan

cc:           1. President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria

2. Oyo State House of Assembly

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