Archbishop warns of 'total collapse' in Nigeria

Seminarians at The Good Shepherd Catholic Major Seminary in Kaduna, Nigeria. Four seminarians were kidnapped in January 2020. Three were later released but one was tragically killed.(Photo: Good Shepherd seminary)

Catholic Archbishop Augustine Akubeze has lamented the divisions and violence that continue to mar Nigeria 60 years after its independence from Britain. 

British colonial rule over Nigeria ended on 1 October 1960, but 60 years on, Archbishop Akubeze said there was little to celebrate. 

In an address to clergy and the faithful on Independence Day, the Archbishop issued an "urgent call to save Nigeria at 60 from total collapse". 

He said it was hard to celebrate in the face of challenges like poverty and Covid-19, and with insurgents continuing to kill or kidnap innocent Nigerians, like Christian schoolgirl Leah Sharibu. 

Sharibu is the only girl among 110 taken from their school in Dapchi by the Islamic State West African Province two years ago to remain in captivity because she refused to renounce her Christian faith. 

Lamenting the situation in Nigeria, Archbishop Akubeze said the country was in "great distress".

"Ordinarily, we as a nation should be rejoicing on this occasion of the diamond jubilee of Nigeria's independence," he said, according to Vatican News. 

"But how can we celebrate when many of our people cannot afford to eat?

"How can we celebrate when we watch daily, the killings of Nigerians by the insurgents?

"How can we celebrate when Boko Haram is still holding some of the Chibok girls, and Leah Sharibu is still being held captive for over three years because she refuses to denounce Christ?

"How can we celebrate when Covid-19 has crippled an already poor Nigerian economy?"

The address came at the end of a nationwide 40 days of prayer for the country.

The Archbishop asked the faithful to continue praying for "an end to the barbaric killings of Christians" in the north of the country. 

"Prayer remains our most potent weapon as Christians," he said.

"We encourage all of you to continue to say the prayer for Nigeria in distress. Nigeria is still very much in great distress after 60 years of independence." 

But he ended with words of hope as he encouraged people to let their faith be their compass in life.

"If all the Christians and Muslims in Nigeria truly follow the dictates of their religions, we will have a Nigeria that will be the envy of other nations," the Archbishop said.