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RECENT EVENTS AT THE EMBASSY

 
 
 



                         

PROTOCOL

Your Eminence, Cardinal Pietro Parolin.
Your Eminence Cardinal Peter Turkson.
The Nigerian Hon Minister of Foreign Affairs – HE Geoffrey  Onyeama.
The Italian Hon Minister of Foreign Affairs and International
Cooperation – HE Enzo Moavero Milanesi.
Your Excellency the Nigerian Ambassador to Italy –
Ambassador Jonga Hinna.
Your Excellencies my distinguished colleagues.
Distinguished Speakers, Distinguished Invited Guests.
Ladies and gentlemen.

2.   An Italian writer, Dino Segrè (also known as Pitigrilli) in his Book "Cocaine" had once said and I quote "Conferences are assemblies of people who agree about how to conduct an argument and end by sending a telegram of congratulation to the Minister", unquote. I was almost agreeing with my friend, Pitigrilli; but when I recalled what happened at the Garden of Eden, I begged to differ slightly. Having created Adam, God and Adam were great pals, until he ate the forbidden fruit. You see, God had designed a very easy and uncomplicated life for mankind but was provoked to create difficulty in the path of mankind because of the intransigence of Adam. So, on that fateful day that Adam ate the apple, he later realized he had done something terribly wrong; and so, to show remorse he went into hiding, using some leaves to cover himself. When God waited and did not hear from Adam for more hours than usual, He decided to enquire; and God called out "Adam, Adam, where are you?" Adam did not respond in the two previous times that God had called him; but on the third call, Adam replied "Lord I am naked!"

3.  Ladies and gentlemen, here was a question that bordered on location (Geography) and the answer Adam gave was on human anatomy (Biology). To avoid this type of disconnect, the modern world found it necessary to introduce conferences as avenues to deliberate on issues with a view to coming up with some coherent correct answers to questions; and this is where I disagree with Pitigrilli that conferences end up achieving nothing.

4.  Thank goodness, this particular conference will be quite different in the sense that it is designed to proffer solutions to contemporary challenges prevalent in the Third World, Nigeria inclusive. Some of these challenges, with direct impact on the wellbeing of Third World’s citizenry, include insecurity, corruption and underdevelopment. Insecurity is viewed from the human-centric perceptive and not from the Westphalian conception, where the latter places much emphasis on the physical preservation of the State and its regime, instead of on the basic needs of the citizenry. His Holiness Pope Francis has continuously decried the inhuman treatment of the poor and the vulnerable of our society, which breeds insecurity and constitutes an infringement of their Human Rights. On its part, the Nigerian government is putting some economic measures in place to ensure that the basic necessities of life are available to the citizenry.

5.  It is an incredible opportunity and an immense privilege to have us coming together for this epoch-making conference. We are using this platform to celebrate a 3-in-1 milestones in the annals of Nigeria’s history. It is 155 years today, since the Catholic Mission came to Nigeria, it is 42 years, this year, since Nigeria established Diplomatic Relations with the Holy See; and, thirdly, Nigeria is 58 years old this month. To underscore the importance of these milestones, the Embassy of Nigeria to the Holy See organized this conference. The conference theme is suitably chosen to generate discussions on how the citizens of the Third World, to which Nigerians belong, could have their quality of life improved, employing economic and techno-scientific approaches. Lectures to lead us to the desired objectives will be presented by a galaxy of erudite speakers; and, your inputs, during the interactive sessions, would be appreciated.

6.  We would want to go home with some possible solutions to the challenge the theme of this conference has aptly identified; and these solutions can only be possible with your full participation. Consequently, we are looking forward to a highly stimulating and interactive conference.

7.  The session will be in 2 phases: Phase 1 starts shortly, and will end with a Tea Break. After the 15-minute Tea Break, Phase 2 shall commence and will end with a Lunch, during which time Nigeria’s Independence Cake will be cut. Meanwhile, I would like to thank President Muhammadu Buhari GCFR for the encouragement and support for this conference. Equally desirous of special mention is His Holiness Pope Francis, who has not only made the use of this venue possible, but has continued to demonstrate his love and concern for Nigeria. It is with deep gratitude and respect that I acknowledge the immense encouragement of the Nigerian Minister of Foreign Affairs, His Excellency Geoffrey Onyeama, in making this Conference to happen. Let me thank your Eminences, Excellencies, Distinguished Speakers, ladies and gentlemen for finding time to honour us with your esteemed presence. You are welcome to the Embassy of Nigeria to the Holy See’s Conference.

8.  I thank you and God bless.

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PROTOCOL

1. Very many economic blueprints have been churned out to improve the Human Development Index of marginal countries, Extremely Poor Countries and Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC), notable among which are the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The MDGs, signed by 189 country leaders in 2000, were 8 goals with measureable targets and clear deadlines for improving the lives of the world’s poorest people. They were aimed at eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, ensuring environmental sustainability, improving maternal health and global partnerships, amongst others, by 2015. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) replaced the MDGs in 2016 and are made up of 17 goals, from gender inequality to climate change. The common thread running through the 17 goals and 169 targets are the commitment to eradicate poverty in all its ramifications, including extreme poverty, as this has been identified as the greatest global challenge and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development, by 2030.

2. It is barely 12 years to 2030 and the goals initially set under the MDGs initiative in 2000, have largely remained unrealizable 18 years later. The failure to achieve even the modest goals of the MDGs has further exacerbated poverty in the marginal, Extremely Poor Countries and Highly Indebted Poor Countries. Many factors are attributed to this; some from natural sources and others man-made. With the new target year of 2030 for the achievement of the SDGs, what prospects are there for the economic emancipation of marginal, Extremely Poor Countries and Highly Indebted Poor Countries towards achieving improved quality of life?

3. This is one question that needs to be critically examined in the light of Bill Gates’ admonition that African governments, especially those of Nigeria and the DRC, must invest more in human capital development since it is the panacea for poverty alleviation. Gates believes that poverty alleviation could be attained through quality investment in health, family planning and education. Gates’ assertion, based on Goalkeepers Data Report, posits that Africa accounts for Two-Thirds (2/3) of the world’s Extremely Poor People (EPP) and that if the trend continues, Africa will account for Nine-Tenth (9/10) of the world’s EPP by the year 2030. More worrisome is the projection that Nigeria and the DRC could be host to some 40% of the world’s EPP by 2050, if something positive is not done. Furthermore, Nigeria that already has 82million people living below Poverty Line could welcome additional 3.2 million people to the ignoble EPP Club by the end of 2018.

4. The foregoing notwithstanding, Goalkeepers Data Report analysis of Poverty Reduction in a 60-year period is illustrated in this graph:


Source: GOALKEEPERS DATA REPORT

While this graphic projection holds some degree of hope for sub-Saharan Africa, from where the bulk of the citizens of the Third World come, poverty alleviation could prove unattainable given the gloomy picture of debt-overhang.

5. To underscore the severity of the debt issues, the G8 Finance Ministers, rising from their 2005 Conference, resolved to cancel the debt-overhang that straddled the necks of some African countries, especially the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC), which stood at between $40 and 55 billion Dollars ($44-55bn) at the time. The truth of the matter was that half of the loans went for debt relief, disaster relief and military aid, rather than development. Whereas, the MDGs emphasized investments in Human Capital, infrastructure and Human Rights, the loans given to the HIPC did not seem to address the key areas envisaged. This observation was confirmed by a United Nations assessment of the MDGs, which showed that the poorest and those disadvantaged because of gender, age, disability or ethnicity were bypassed.

6. Even at that, these indebted countries would do all in their powers to demonstrate their capabilities to pay back their debts, through injurious domestic policies that further exacerbate the already-precarious poverty situations. Such policies include the institution of high taxes whilst the take-home pays of the workers are scandalously low. Due to high taxes, foreign investors are scared of establishing businesses in Africa; and if there are no investments, where would the citizens hope to get employments and where will governments get money to develop infrastructure? It is evident therefore, that taxes cannot raise money if the economies are moribund. It is equally evident that poor countries will find it difficult to repay loans. Reliance on debt forgiveness and charity will never help poor countries in their quests to eradicate extreme poverty; but rather, tax cuts will help grow the economy.

7. If charity, debt forgiveness and oppressive taxes will not lend hand in curtailing extreme poverty and hunger in Africa, what then holds the key to the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger in the Third World? There is a school of thought that believes that the quality of life of citizens in the Third World can only be enhanced when the citizens engage in techno-scientific productivity. It is important to engage in productivity to enhance the wellbeing of the citizenry; but the wellbeing will only be complete with proper provision for health care.

8. Besides the HDI, the World Bank, in its annual meeting in Bali, Indonesia, some 3 weeks ago, came up with a new paradigm of ranking countries based on its Human Capital Index (HCI). This ranking answers the question: How well are the global governments setting up their people for success? To underscore the potency of this question, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) submits that 56% of children born these days around the world will miss out on more than half their potential lifetime earnings just because governments are not making good and adequate investments into education and health. In other words, the HCI ranking is an expression of how much countries are losing by not fully investing in human capital, which include “the knowledge, skills and health that people accumulate over their lives”. To therefore ensure a high HCI in their respective countries, governments must make necessary and sufficient investments in education and health. The following Bar-Chart illustrates the World’s Regional standings with regards to the HCI, based on World Bank’s data.


WORLD’S REGIONAL HUMAN CAPITAL INDEX STANDINGS BAR-CHART



SOURCE: BASED ON WORLD BANK’S DATA

KEY
1. SEA – South East Asia.
2. ECA – Europe & Central Asia.
3. MENA – Middle East & North Africa.
4. SSA – Sub-Sahara Africa.
5. LAC – Latin America & Caribbean.
6. EAP – East Asia & Pacific.
7. NA – North America.

9. Health challenges are known precursors of poverty and that is why it is a significant milestone to attain in the SDGs. Like someone once said; “Health is Everything”. One major threat to the wellbeing of, especially, the sub-Saharan people, in recent years, has been the Ebola Virus. Over 12,000 lives were lost in Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and the USA, when the pandemic broke out in 2014. Currently, the deadly Virus is on rampage in the DRC.

10.  The lethality of this dreaded Virus on health has continued to engage researchers, from a wide spectrum of professions, on its prevention, cure and containment. Whilst the devastation was indescribable in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the containment was swift in Nigeria. What strategic approach did Nigeria adopt to stem the scourge of Ebola? An erudite scholar, who carried out a research on this question, will provide a first-time answer to it, shortly, in this Conference.

11. This one-day seminar seeks to provoke discussions on the way the marginal, Extremely Poor Countries and HIPC could hope to attain enhanced HDI in order to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, which is the pivotal intention of the SDGs. In considering the discourse, which is aptly themed “Enhancing Third World’s Human Development Index Through Economic and Techno-scientific Re-engineering”, cognizance must however be taken of the various factors, both internal and external to the Third World, which tend to thwart the realization of this dream. Some of such factors, which must be considered are education and health that have now been elegantly encapsulated by the World Bank in HCI.

12. In summary, what does this epoch-making Conference intend to achieve? The answer is embedded in the two graphical representations earlier highlighted. In the first instance, the Conference seeks to proffer solutions to how the 3 Waves of Poverty Reduction could be brought to ZERO by the year 2050 or earlier.
13. Secondly, the Conference seeks to raise the HCI of the Third World countries (mainly from SSA and LAC) from the current disturbing levels to a more acceptable standard; and if the Conference succeeds in  realizing these two broad objectives, then, the deed would have been done.

14. With these few comments on the raison d’être of this important Conference, let me use this opportunity to welcome you, Your Eminences, Your Excellencies, distinguished invited guests, ladies and gentlemen, to this occasion and I hope you will enjoy the session. Thank you.

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Your Excellency Mr. Enzo Moavero Milanesi, Foreign Affairs Minister of Italy,
Your Excellency Mr. Godwin George Umo, Ambassador of Nigeria to the Holy See,
Distinguished Speakers, Ambassadors, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am pleased to be with you on this special occasion as we commemorate three important events in the history of Nigeria: (1) the one hundred and fifty-fifth Anniversary of the Advent of the Catholic Mission; (2) the fifty-eighth Anniversary of Nigeria’s Independence; and (3) the forty-second Anniversary of Nigeria’s Diplomatic Relations with the Holy See.
At the very outset, I would like to express sincere thanks to Ambassador Umo for inviting me to be with you and to say a few words at the beginning of this conference.  In so doing, allow me Mr. Ambassador, to extend to you, and through you, to the Authorities and all the citizens of Nigeria, as well as to all who are present here, the blessings and greetings of the Holy Father Pope Francis.
The presence of Catholicism in the territories corresponding to present-day Nigeria dates back to the end of the fifteenth century, when Portuguese missionaries arrived in the region.  Those initial efforts to establish a community were largely unsuccessful and Catholicism had virtually disappeared by the seventeenth century.  It was only two centuries later, with the arrival in the eighteen sixties of priests from the Society of African Missions of Lyons, that a modern Catholic mission was established, beginning in Lagos.  By 1920 numerous missions had taken root throughout Igboland and in the course of the twentieth century, missionaries of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit (Holy Ghost Fathers) and priests from St. Patrick’s Society also contributed to the mission in Nigeria.  Indeed, the love of God and neighbour, fired a missionary zeal in the hearts of many Europeans, who left their homelands to travel to Igboland and the rest of Nigeria in order to bring the Gospel to its inhabitants.
These men of God not only proclaimed the Gospel, but also brought with them the educational system and healthcare of their time.  Indeed, the growth of Christianity in Nigeria had a significant impact on culture, education, politics and many other facets of social life.  The contribution of the Church to the educational development of Nigeria, especially of the eastern region, remains unparalleled thanks to the foresightedness of those missionaries, who used the limited resources at their disposal to build schools all over the area.  The Catholic Church also demonstrated great interest in the development of higher education, particularly with the liberalisation of the ownership and management of tertiary institutions
in Nigeria.  Generations of teachers, professors, lawyers, medical doctors and other professionals, who trained in these institutions, have competed and are competing, favourably with their counterparts anywhere in the world.
I know that this opening address is not an occasion to go into the details of the history of the Catholic Church in Nigeria and its contributions to Nigerian society.  I am proud to say, however, that the Church in Nigeria has remained faithful to its principal role, namely bringing salvation to humankind through reconciliation with the Creator, through preaching and living the Good News.  I happily recall the years I served as Secretary of the Apostolic Nunciature in Lagos.  I witnessed a Church that is caring and consoling; a Church, that shapes human consciences and offers a moral compass; a Church, that has remained faithful to the teachings of Christ even in the midst of tribulation and insecurity; a Church that accompanies people in different ways, by feeding the hungry, educating children, caring for orphans, and providing hospice care, to mention but a few areas of activity.
In short, although not immune from the challenges facing society as a whole, the Church in Nigeria is a dynamic reality – something the Nigerian State has always recognized and appreciated, seeking to maintain good relations with the Holy See right from the time of independence.
Indeed, we commemorate not only fifty-eight years of Nigerian Independence, but also of the establishment, at the behest of Pope St John XXIII, of an Apostolic Delegation for Central and Western Africa in Lagos.  The Delegation opened on 3 rd
May 1960 and had jurisdiction over Nigeria, Cameroon, Gabon, Central African Republic, Congo and Chad.  Later, during the Pontificate of Pope St. Paul VI, on 10 th October 1973, the same Mission was reorganised as the Apostolic Delegation in Nigeria and Ghana, retaining its base in Lagos.  On 29 th April 1976, with the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Nigeria, Pope Paul VI erected the Apostolic Nunciature in Nigeria.  Subsequently, in 2001, the Mission moved from Lagos to Abuja.
As of today, the Holy See is one of the ninety-nine States that maintain a resident Ambassador in Abuja.  Until 2011, the chancery of the Nigerian Embassy to the Holy See was in Spain.  The decision of the Nigerian Government in 2012 to appoint a resident Ambassador to the Holy See was a sign of the excellent bilateral relations that had developed over the previous half century.  The present Ambassador, H.E. Mr. Godwin George Umo, who presented his Credential Letters on 9 th December 2017, is the second resident Ambassador of Nigeria to the Holy See.
On this auspicious occasion, I wish to state that the Catholic Church remains committed to accompanying the Nation with her specific mission of evangelisation, and through cooperating with all people of good will in the promotion of the common good, of human dignity, and of peace and prosperity for all.  Of course, through modern education, human resource development, as well as through the promotion of science and technology, the Church has played its part in the enhancement of the Human Development Index of Nations, and she will continue to do so over the years to come.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I wish every success to your work today and thank you for your kind attention.  May God bless you all!


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CONFERENCE SPEAKERS’ TOPICS

PRESENTATION BY HIS EMINENCE CARDINAL PETER KA TURKSON

PRESENTATION BY PROF OBIORA IKE (LINK)

PRESENTATION BY DR PAULINUS CHUKWUDI NWEKE (LINK)

PRESENTATION BY PROF JOHN EGBUFELU (LINK)

PRESENTATION BY PROF JACQUINEAU AZÉTSOP (LINK)

 
 




Fellow Nigerians,

Today is a day of celebration and solemn reflection. It is the anniversary of the day Nigerians realised one of the most cherished of human desires - the desire for freedom. We, therefore, give thanks to and remember our founding fathers who laboured so hard and sacrificed so much to build and bequeath to us this wonderful nation. It is our duty to consolidate this great legacy.

On this first October date and on the eve of the start of the general election cycle, we should do well to reflect on what binds us together and the great strength our diversity bestows on us. Ours is an ambitious nation, and, as citizens we have every right to look forward to the future with confidence and optimism, which are well founded, considering where we find ourselves today.

There has been a steady improvement in the security situation in the North East. We remain committed to ending the crisis and make the North East safe for all.

Our thoughts and prayers are always with the victims of the Boko Haram's atrocities and their families. Beyond that, we know that the goals of the Boko Haram terrorists include capturing territories, destroying our democracy and denying our children the right to education. We will not allow them to succeed.

I want at this point to pay tribute to the men and women of our armed forces, the Police and other security and law enforcement agencies, who have been working under the most difficult conditions to keep the country safe. In the process, many have made the supreme sacrifice.

As their Commander -In- Chief, I assure these our gallant men and women that I will continue to empower them by deepening their professionalism and providing all the necessary force multipliers and enablers required for them to prevail on the field. I am looking into all reported cases of inadequacies in relation to their entitlements, their welfare and those of their families.

We are diversifying away from reliance on oil to increased manufacturing capacity, solid minerals development, and agriculture.

Efforts are on course in the Niger Delta to clean up polluted lands, restore hopes of the youths in the region and re-establish livelihoods, and strengthen their capacity to guarantee for themselves and for our country a brighter future.

The age-long conflict between herders and farmers that was being exploited by those seeking to plant the seeds of discord and disunity amongst our people, is being addressed decisively. We will sustain and continue to support the commendable efforts by all including civil society organisations, local and states governments and our traditional and religious leaders in finding durable solution to this problem.

This being a transhumance issue, we are working with countries in our region that are also facing similar difficulties to complement our common efforts. In this context I must warn that the perpetrators of murder and general mayhem in the name of defending or protecting herders or farmers will face the full wrath of the law. Meanwhile, we urge all peace loving Nigerians to reject any simplistic portrayal, at home or abroad, of this conflict as either religious or ethnic based.

We are one of the countries in the world most affected by environmental degradation, as a consequence of climate change. We are signatories to almost all conventions and agreements aimed at slowing down the effect of climate change and mitigating its now evident consequences.

The consequences on lives and livelihoods of the shrinking of the Lake Chad and the pollution caused by oil exploitation activities alone make it mandatory on us to be at the forefront of the struggle for a safer and more sustainable environment. We will continue to mobilise international support for our efforts in this regard.

We are making progress in the fight against corruption and recovery of stolen public funds and assets despite vicious and stiff resistance. The shameful past practice, of the brazen theft of billions of Naira is no more. Shady oil deals and public contracts that were never delivered have become things of the past.

Consequently, and this is very evident across the country, we have done more with less in infrastructural developments. Roads, railways, major bridges, schools, energy and power, air and sea ports, welfare of serving and retired personnel both civilian and military including payment of legacy debt such as pension arrears, have been attended to.


There is now an enabling environment for local and foreign investment in Nigeria. We are building a rules-based system - a level playing field that is free from fixers and intermediaries. This is the cornerstone to help genuine investors and honest consumers, and the platform that will allow for the real reforms that we intend to deliver over the coming years.

We are gradually strengthening the economy with a stable Naira and falling inflation rate. We are building an economy that is moving away from over reliance on oil. Consequently we have witnessed massive return to farms and seen bumper harvest, despite recurrent floods across the country.

These positive developments are the result of our collective pursuit of a common vision through hard work and dedication, after the missed opportunities and disappointments that followed the return to democracy in 1999.

At the forefront, have always been our youths. They have been at the vanguard of the struggle for independence. They fought in the war to keep the country united. And it was they who kept alive the struggle for democracy and human rights in our country at times when these were at risk, especially following the June 12th 1993 election and the historic 2015 election process.

Even today, our youths play a central role in Nigeria's continuing progress and developments in all fields of our national endeavour - technology, agriculture, mining, engineering and especially the creative arts. Together we are building a more diverse, inclusive and self-reliant economy.

In the past three years we have introduced many policies and programmes targeted at youth development and youth empowerment. We support the 'not too young to run' legislation aimed at giving the youths greater say in our national politics and governance.

The school feeding program in primary schools is aimed at encouraging enrolment and attendance. We are building on what we have already introduced to support schools and universities to which funds have recently been released for upgrade of facilities, training programs for our entrepreneurs, and rehabilitation schemes for victims of terrorism and human trafficking.

Fellow Nigerians,

Now we have in our hands technology that is a powerful tool that we can and should use for knowledge and understanding. As with other countries, we must also learn how to manage those tendencies that, instead, look to abuse new technologies to provoke passions and stir tensions.

Never before have we faced such a challenge. We must all rise to the responsibility of shutting out those disruptive and corrosive forces that hide in today's world of social media. We need critical minds and independent thinking, to question and question until we are satisfied we have the facts. Otherwise, all the progress we have made as a democracy since 1999 is at stake.

I have committed myself many times to ensure that elections are fully participatory, free and fair and that the Independent National Electoral Commission will be exactly INDEPENDENT and properly staffed and resourced. The ballot box is how we make our choice for the governments that rule in our name.

Fellow Nigerians,

Developing a thriving democracy is not an easy task. There can be no quick fixes or short cuts. These are the most important lessons that we have learnt in our 58 years as an independent nation.

At the international level, we remain a responsible and respected member of the international community, playing active positive roles within ECOWAS, the African Union and the United Nations as well as all other regional and international organisations and institutions of which we are members.

We will continue to support initiatives aimed at addressing the challenges of our times: global and regional crises and conflicts, terrorism, trans-border crime, climate change, human rights, gender equality, development, poverty and inequality within and between nations, etc.

In this context, we are working hard to achieve both the AU 2063 Agenda for socio-economic transformation of our continent; and the UN 2030 Agenda for sustainable development, which together aim at addressing these challenges.

Fellow Nigerians,

As we celebrate the 58th Anniversary of our independence, we know we are on the right path. Although we have our differences, they count for far less than the values, virtues and common aspirations that unite us as a nation. We have so much for which we should be grateful, and in which we should rightly take pride. Our journey is not finished but we have come a long way.

I want to assure you that as President, I will continue to work tirelessly to promote, protect and preserve what really matters: a united, peaceful, prosperous and secure Nigeria, where all, irrespective of background, can aspire to succeed.

Thank you. I wish you a memorable independence celebration.

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INTRODUCTION

1.     Nigeria is blessed with an expansive landmass, covering approximately 924 km2, with a population of about 180 million. This population comprises some 250 ethnic nationalities with a potpourri of cultures and values. These cultures and values are largely influenced by a couple of factors. Such factors include, but not limited to, religion, colonial heritage and traditional nuances, which give rise to diversity. Diversity in cultures and values could be likened to a rainbow or the feathers of a peacock.
2.     Diversity usually connotes differences and thus, sometimes, incoherence, non-uniformity and divergence. However, it is possible to harness diversity into strength. While such a feat could sometimes prove unattainable, it becomes a possibility if divinely arranged. It follows that one could have a plethora of cultural heritages and values, which could be harnessed for cohesive national unity, instead of serving as sources of national discord.
3.      It is this diversity of culture that when looked from another perspective could be seen as a mosaic. A mosaic presents radiance, beauty, and it is appealing to the eyes; so, Nigeria’s cultural diversity and values when looked upon as a mosaic could, indeed, constitute a beauty to behold. Therefore, it is apt to consider the diversity in Nigeria’s cultural heritages and values to be divinely designed mosaics. Since it is an arrangement from above, Nigerians would have to be very proud of the multiplicity in their cultural heritage and take advantage of this to build a strong and viable national unity for prosperity.
4.     Continuing with the topic of discourse, some conceptual clarifications of the key variables would be undertaken. This is because concepts assume various meanings according to the contexts in which they are used.  To avoid ambivalence and confusion to the audience, these conceptual clarifications have become necessary. Thereafter, the paper will advocate unity, take a cursory look at some likely impediments to cultural harmony; and, will proffer some possible solutions towards circumventing those impediments.

AIM

5.     The aim of this homily is to discuss Nigeria’s multiple cultural heritages and values with a view to advocating their harmonization towards the country’s prosperity.

SCOPE

6.      To achieve the above-stated aim, the homily will address the following:
         a.  Conceptual clarifications.
         b.  Togetherness is strength.
         c.  Impediments to cultural harmony.
         d.  The way forward.

CONCEPTUAL CLARIFICATIONS

CULTURE
7.     Depending on the perspective one sees culture; it could mean the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievements, regarded collectively.  On the other hand, culture could be the ideas, customs and social behaviour of  a particular people or society. Furthermore, culture, in biology, could assume the meaning of maintaining tissue cells, bacteria and other things in conditions suitable for growth. Notwithstanding the various definitions of culture, this discourse would adopt the definition that emphasizes ideas, customs and social behaviour of a group of people or society. Indeed, it is generally agreed that culture is the way of life of a group of people or society. For a homogenous society it is easy to define and explain and thus does not attract the difficulty a heterogeneous society, comprising many cultures and, perhaps, values, does. It is the harnessing of these diverse cultures into the same social stage that holds the beauty in the notion that there could be unity in diversity.


CULTURAL HERITAGE
8.    Cultural heritage thus means the passing from past generations to current generations the way of life of the society they find themselves. Since societies themselves do not exist in silos, it means that they are not immune to influences external to them. This phenomenon is further encouraged by current interconnectedness occasioned by globalization. In other words, cultural heritage does assume dimensions different from how it was handed down, depending on the level of exposure to and intercourse with the interacting cultures. It goes to show, therefore, that there is no culture that is superior or inferior to the other. Cultures are deliberately and divinely mosaic to bring forth the beauty in diversity. Talking about mosaicked beauty is better appreciated when one views the peacock in full display of its God-endowed feathers. The Nigerian cultural diversity could be likened to the peacock’s feathers at full display. It is, indeed, a beauty to behold. Nigerians must, therefore, leverage the beauty radiated by this diversity to build a strong and unifying national bond.


VALUES
9.    The concept of values may defy pinpoint definition, like many other concepts; but, it can generally be seen as the very set of things a people or society very much cherishes and as defined by them. A society is described and identified by the set of values they subscribe to. There is therefore a thin line between values and tenets. A society’s set of values can thus be shaped by their beliefs. Beliefs and morality are closely related and that perhaps explains why a society bereft of morals would, most often, come up with warped set of values that could erode the very pillars of sustenance of that society. It is, therefore, important that Nigerians embrace positive set of values at all times; and, ensure that, along with the rich cultural heritage that God has given them, that they bequeath morally-reinforced values to generations unborn. A society with defective moral rectitude is a candidate for self-annihilation.


MOSAIC
10.    A society could be a candidate for self-annihilation, if it fails to utilize nature-endowed attributes to promote its sustenance. One divinely-designed attribute for Nigeria is the multiple cultures that can be found across the entire landscape of the country. These cultures have been there for ages. With socio-economic and cultural intercourses, some of these cultures have experienced negative osmotic exchanges. Largely, though, some of the cultures have managed to retain a good percentage of the contents of their original forms. It is the plethora of these cultural forms that is referred to here as a Mosaic.
11.     Many scholars have attempted to define the word "mosaic" from their individual perspectives but their definitions tend to highlight the same set of meanings. Some educational publications have also contributed to making the understanding of the concept easy. For example, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary sees a Mosaic as "A picture or pattern produced by arranging together small pieces of coloured stone, tile, glass, etc". The Cambridge English Dictionary posits that a Mosaic is "Something made up of different things that together form a pattern". Some other definition gives it as "An individual composition of cells of 2 genetically different types". In the case of Nigeria where there are over 250 ethnic nationalities and where these ethnic nationalities are largely identified with unique cultural heritages and values, the last definition of mosaic could be amended to read "…cells of multiple genetically different types".
12.   If therefore the first and second definitions of Mosaic above, are situated in this discourse, it could be said that by divine design, the cultures of Nigeria were put together to form a pattern, and this pattern could be likened to an arrangement comprising small pieces of coloured stone or glass or tile. Nigeria’s cultures could be safely said to be a mosaic; a mosaic that is divinely designed. If it was divinely designed, why try to put asunder what God has put together? It is the position of this paper that Nigerians must rally round this God-given arrangement to savour the goodness emanating from it for national cohesion and prosperity.

TOGETHERNESS IS STRENGTH

13.     National cohesion is a precursor of national development and growth. Scholars have long discovered this and it is therefore surprising that with the level of education and awareness in the Nigerian polity, this fact has not been internalized to enhance national greatness. Nigeria has indeed witnessed several development plans that ought to have placed her amongst the top 20 in the comity of nations but she still continues to act like a political toddler. Perhaps the words of a former president of the USA, Dwight Eisenhower, could be instructive here: "Plans are worthless, but planning is everything".
14.    Yes, it is good to draw up plans, but when the impacting indices are not captured in a coherent framework in the planning process, the goal would clearly be unattainable. It is advocated here that Nigeria’s cultures and values must be harnessed in planning for national growth and development. Consequently, Nigerians, even in the diaspora, must come together to optimize the cultural heritages and values that are so richly available in Nigeria to showcase the positive side of Nigeria to the world. This cultural fiesta with the theme "Nigeria’s Cultural Heritage: God’s Blessing and Gift to Us" could not have been more timely. To achieve the aforesaid, some extremist behaviours must have to be eschewed. People’s cultures are not inferior to others and that air of cultural superiority must be discarded for national harmony.

IMPEDIMENTS TO CULTURAL HARMONY

15.     One sure way to promote harmony, prevent conflict and promote peace is to tolerate others who may not be of the same opinion and mould. It is even more important to respect others’ opinions and dispositions. Respect, together with tolerance, would serve as the panacea to promoting national harmony. In the context of this discourse, respect of other segments of the Nigerian cultural mosaic would promote cultural harmony. In ensuring the realization of this lofty ideal, some impediments must be identified and circumvented.


TRADITIONAL INFLUENCES
16.    Dogmatic adherence to some traditional beliefs, especially where such beliefs emphasize exclusiveness, could act as impediments to cultural harmony. It therefore behoves Nigerians to show respect and tolerance towards cultures outside their respective traditional influences in order to accommodate other cultural heritages. While recognizing the right of every ethnic nationality of Nigerian origin to sustain its identity, this paper advocates that such ethnic nationalistic showing, should be under a national umbrella when occasion so demands. With this readiness to identify with national, rather than the ethnic picture, the much-desired cultural harmony could be achieved.
17.    It is in this vein that the Federal Government of Nigeria decided to create a national body – Nigerians in Diaspora (NIDO), with branches in each continent of the world to coordinate the activities of its citizens abroad and oversee their welfare. This is what is called Citizen-Diplomacy. With the Act of Parliament establishing NIDO, and the many benefits expressed therein, Nigerians abroad could take advantage of such provisions to identify with NIDO for the simple reason of accounting for them – both in peace and in war.


RELIGION
18.   Being very conscious of the audience this discourse is supposed to address, the author would not claim to know more than the audience, on the subject of religion. However, religion is expected to show the human the best way to serve God and humanity and, therefore, be assured of his salvation. Since religion cannot be excised from culture, extremist religious posturing has found ways into adulterating the very beauty of what culture is supposed to represent. The propagation of these negatives in culture brings about intolerance and disrespect. It is, therefore, the position of this paper that religious differences should not encourage intolerance and disrespect on the platform of national cultural harmony. Various religious leaders must thus be seen to preach what would blend the diverse cultural divides into one national heritage.


ENVIRONMENT
19.    It had earlier been said that cultures and values do not exist in cocoons. With globalization and interconnectedness of the various peoples of the world, coupled with movements of persons across international borders, nothing enjoys a good degree of insulation anymore. Cultures and values are no exceptions. Notwithstanding, the degree of penetration or adulteration of one’s culture would depend on the impregnability or porosity of the moral wall built to shield the values of that society. It presupposes, therefore, that a high moral rectitude is desired in any society that wants to maintain the good points of its cultural heritage. Here, it is believed, the religious leaders have a crucial role to play.

THE WAY FORWARD

20.   Some pitfalls could be found in the dogmatic adherence to one’s traditional values; values that are equally subject to the vagaries of the environment. This dogmatism would blind one to the beauty of other peoples’ cultures. To avoid this situation, Nigerians must adopt an open mind to cultures and values other than those of their ethnic nationalities. They would also need to subsume their individual tribal leanings and forge a national outlook when the occasion demands. Nigerians must not forget the popular saying "United We Stand".
21.    Religions must preach peaceful coexistence and must emphasize the purpose for which they came into being. Religion is part and parcel of culture and every good religion advocates strong moral values. If, therefore, the positive aspects were emphasized always in the various religious enclaves, there would be less of inter-religious conflicts and more of harmony. This harmony would derive from tolerance and respect, which the religious synergy must have engendered. Consequently, a blend of the diverse cultures would be required for a common national cultural heritage.
22.    Globalization, which has pulled down national borders, has brought about the good, the bad and the ugly into the socio-political and economic lives of many nations. The Internet has further exacerbated the bad and ugly aspects of globalization, propagating and penetrating cultures with such an unbelievable impact. Consequently, Nigerians must shield their rich cultural heritage and much-cherished values, from this cyber-invasion, by building high moral walls around the polity. The Clergy also has a lot of work to do in this regard.

CONCLUSION

23.  In this short discourse, attempts have been made to give a little background story and explain the key variables largely, from the author’s perspective. Having thus seen that the plethora of cultures, which abound in Nigeria, was deliberately made to be a Mosaic by God, Nigerians must begin to appreciate, admire, exploit and showcase the radiance of Nigeria’s collective cultures to the world. If Nigerians cannot do it, nobody would. In doing so, however, the impediments that could thwart such efforts must be avoided.
24.     Nigerians must, therefore, resolve to guard, jealously, their rich cultural varieties from those negatives that could create disharmony amongst them. They must also remember that a nation with weak moral fibre is heading towards self-annihilation. Consequently, high moral walls must be built around current and future generations, in order to sustain the pleasant Nigeria the past generations bequeathed to the current ones, so that they too, could have something to pass on to the incoming generations. If Nigerians could do this, successfully, they could gladly proclaim that the cultural Mosaic God designed has, indeed, been a blessing and a gift to their country. Nigerians can only access God’s favour and protection when they appropriate and utilize their cultural mosaic for emancipation. God bless Nigeria.


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ADDRESS BY HIS EXCELLENCY

GENERAL GODWIN GEORGE UMO (RTD) OON GSS psc (+) fwc CMH MSc

NIGERIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE HOLY SEE
ON THE OCCASION OF THE BISHOPS’ CONFERENCE DINNER
ON FRIDAY 27 APRIL 2018

INTRODUCTION

1.      PROTOCOL
2.      I had read in some Nigerian Newspapers about a group of Catholics who disagreed with the Pope over the choice of the Bishop for the Ahaira Diocese. I glossed over the news item because, to me, it did not concern me, but little did I know that it would. A few days after reading the Ahiara Declaration, my phone rang; and I was appointed the Nigerian Ambassador to the Holy See. I rushed back to the Newspaper vendors to get the Backdates; there were none. I tried to contact the Catholic Bishop in Abuja – he had gone to Jalingo for the Bishops Conference. The new Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Antonio Guido Filipazzi, had hardly resumed; but I had to meet him for some briefing on the subject. It was then I got the full gist and the efforts made to resolve the impasse. When eventually the problem was solved with valuable inputs from late Bishop Joseph Danlami Bagobiri of Kafanchan Diocese (May his soul rest in peace), I was relieved.
3.    I was relieved to see the end of the Ahiara imbroglio with the resignation of Bishop Okpaleke, only to be confronted by the Amoris Laetitia controversy. The joy here is that those contesting the provisions of Amoris Laetitia are not Nigerians. However, as the Nigerian Ambassador to the Holy See, what concerns the Holy See concerns me, much as what concerns Nigeria too. I had learnt from the Ahiara episode to have more than a passing interest in what bothers my neighbour because his grief could become my burden.
4.   Three hundred youths from various parts of the world, religions, social orientations converged for a 5-day Conference 19-24 Mar 18 to articulate views on hot-botton issues spanning the entire spectrum of human existence. Your presence in Rome is part of that Conference and therefore not a sight-seeing expedition.
5.    The Conference of Bishops is thus a serious business with the propensity to shape the future of the youths, the Church and the world.

PRESENTATION OF LETTERS
OF CREDENCE

6.      I had a rare privilege to discuss with His Holiness Pope Francis prior to the presentation of my Letters of Credence, during the visit of the Nigerian Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt Hon Yakubu Dogara to the Embassy to the Holy See.
7.      On the day of Presentation, 09 Dec 17, Pope Francis gave me three of his books sequel to our discussions on areas of similar interests:

          a.          AMORIS LAETITIA – a post-synodal apostolic exhortation to                        Bishops, Priests etc. on love and family.
          b.          LAUDATO SÍ – an encyclical letter on care for our environment.
          c.           EVANGELII GAUDIUM – an apostolic exhortation on the                         proclamation of the Gospel in today’s world.

8.    There was this furor on the Holy Father’s position on the traditional conservative issues of the Church, which he expressed in Amoris Laetitia, which I attempted to read but got often distracted by official issues. From the little gleaned from the 9-Chapter Book, the controversy centres on Chapter 8, which addresses the issue of divorced and invalidly remarried couples and their suitability or otherwise of partaking in some sacraments of the Church.

A PEEP INTO AMORIS LAETITIA

9.    Pope’s advocacy for some paradigm shift in the interpretation and implementation of Code of Canon Law 804 – "Religious Educators must be outstanding…in the witness of a Christian Life".
10.     Persons not in conformity with the rules and regulations of the Church are not permitted to perform such functions the Church may consider sacred.
11.    Amoris Laetitia pleads that divorced and invalidly remarried couples, could be allowed to partake in communion, be lectors, catechists and godparents, subject to the discernment of their Bishops.
12.    However, Canon Law Expert, Barr Edward Peters would have none of that. To him, Amoris Laetitia has assailed the provisions of Canon Law 804 and can therefore not be accommodated.
13.     The teaching of St Thomas Aquinas discourages going too deep into the finer details of laws. It could prove counter-productive as so many defects would come to the fore, which can render the application of the law impracticable. He therefore advised that rules should be applied with circumspection and peculiarity to the situation at hand; and I think this is the reasoning behind the Pope’s call for discernment.
14.  Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia insists that Saint Pope John Paul II’s FAMILIARIS CONSORTIO (Paragraph 84) was a forerunner to Pope Francis Amoris Laetitia and that the latter merely exhumed what had remained buried in the former’s encyclical letter.  
15.   Besides Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia’s submission, I found the Law of Gradualness, as espoused by St Pope John Paul II, very instructive. It forms a strong pillar for the advocacy for the offenders of the Church’s rules and regulations to be given another window of opportunity and time for atonement.
16.   Cautious examination, interpretation and implementation of Code of Canon Law 804 on the issue of the divorced and the invalidly remarried couples, who may unwittingly offend the rules of the Church due to circumstances outside their control, may be required. To me Amoris Laetitia seeks to find a mid-ground to reintegrate these offenders into the mainstream of the Church in order to pave way for their salvation.
17.   Like His Holiness Pope Francis said in his Amoris Laetitia, "all these situations require a constructive response seeking to transform them into opportunities that can lead to full reality of marriage and family in conformity with the Gospel". I queue behind this reasoning.

THE FIVE DUBIA AND THE FOUR CARDINALS

18.     On the Amoris Laetitia, certain provisions contained in Chapter 8, did not go down well with some four Cardinals and they consequently issued a joint set of questions (Dubia) for the Holy Father’s clarifications. These 5 questions have been well publicized and the august audience is very familiar with them and therefore do not require further emphasis. Suffice to say, however, that the key Dubia sought to know whether Pope Francis meant, through Amoris Laetitia, to allow divorced and remarried persons to receive Communion.
19.       Pope Francis has not responded to the Dubia posed by:
             a. Cardinal Walter Brandmuller.
             b. Cardinal Raymond Burke.
             c. Late Cardinal Carlo Caffarra.
             d. Late Cardinal Joachim Meisner.
He, however, called for "Pastoral Discernment" of individual situations and proposed "The Logic of Pastoral Mercy" in working with remarried persons. It would appear to me that the Holy Father did not aim at changing the Catholic doctrine or discipline but urging a change in pastoral approach towards those faithful who may have failed to live up to the imperatives of the Gospel. To me, Saint Pope John Paul II’s Law of Gradualness has some imprint here.
20.    Whilst the 4 Cardinals Dubia may have failed to elicit the Pope’s response, Robert Fastiggi, a professor of Systematic Theology at the Sacred Heart Seminary, Detroit, Michigan, USA, has offered an interesting comment on the conversation.  He likened the interpretation of the Amoris Laetitia to that of interpreting a Constitution. According to Robert Fastiggi, a US Supreme Court Justice, Antonin Scalia, had once advised on how to interpret a Constitution. Justice Scalia stated that: "In order to properly interpret the Constitution, it is not only important to pay attention to what the text says but also to what the text does not say". Fastiggi therefore believes that the 4 Cardinals imputed things that Amoris Laetitia did not intend, as the Dubia did not correspond to the original text of the Amoris Laetitia. He further opined that the answers the Dubia sought to get were, indeed, in the Amoris Laetitia, which perhaps explains the Pope’s silence on the Dubia. Your Eminences, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bishops Conference is capable of resolving this seeming controversy and I am confident it would.

THE YOUTHS AND THEIR CONCERNS

21.   Your Eminences, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, the recent reclassification of Age Groups has taken me out of the youths bracket into what the Pew Research Centre calls "Young Old Man", whatever that means. They may have smuggled me out of my comfort zone, but my body and soul are with the youths. Besides having a couple of them in my family, they are our future leaders; so we have to share in their concerns.
22.      The 5-day Youth Conference considered an array of issues spanning the entire spectrum of human existence – social, economic and political. Some of the hot-botton issues that came under their searchlight were: SEXUAL MORALITY, which they claimed the Church’s teaching was not explicit enough, and therefore generates controversies.
23.    Equally, the Youths felt that religion and family importance, which Amoris Laetitia addressed, have been relegated to a lower degree of significance. These observations are apt. Most Churches in some European cities I visited were virtually empty on Sundays, leaving aged grandparents and their toddling grandchildren as the congregants. These situations are further exacerbated by modern-day individualistic living as opposed to the communal living of old. The Church grows when the community speaks with one voice, does things together, has a common aspiration and love for one another.
24.   Youths seem to be confused about the Church’s teachings on Contraception, Abortion, Homosexuality, Cohabitation, permanency of marriage and the male priesthood and would like to have a definite posturing of the Church on these issues. Some of them who think they understand the position of the Church on these issues would want to differ. So, what solutions would this august Conference proffer to the Roman Curia to help the youths with their faith in the Church and their future?

MIGRATION AND REFUGEE PROBLEMS

25.      Migration can be voluntary or forced. Causes of forced migration include: Conflicts (Wars), untenable economic environments, natural disasters, social discriminations and political persecutions, to mention a few.
26.      Pope Francis is one of the vocal voices calling on stable democratic countries to show mercy to those fleeing these adverse conditions – the Refugees. However, the degree of acceptance to this divine exhortation varies from Europe to America. Paradoxically, those who fled economic hardships to other countries are now impervious to others seeking succour in their domains. I hold the lack of History in the schools curricula culpable for this lapse.
27.       Since the Youths are not conversant with the history of migrations, they see the building of walls around themselves as a better option than inter and intra-cultural infusions and exchanges. Again, you cannot blame the youths, fully, because some adults, old adults for that matter, are thinking like them. This was a position that the Youths, at least a good percentage of them, favoured. It goes to underscore the dryness of milk of human kindness in our youths and signals the direction of the future world, if something is not done urgently.
28.     The Church is the custodian of morality, which is what the youths’ attitude is all about. The Church must put all the factors that promote forced migration in one coherent framework for analysis with a view to finding lasting solutions to it. The Church must endeavour to intervene in the causes of migration and refugee problems and not just in their effects.
29.      The International Office of Migration has predicted that in no distant time, about 1.5 million migrants largely from Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal would be heading to Europe and America. Unstable societies, occasioned by conflicts, corruption and non-inclusiveness in governance, give rise to forced migration.

CONCLUSION

30.       Your Eminences, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, we came here for dinner, which incidentally was in two parts. I am about concluding the Part 1, which was intended to whet your appetite for Part 2. Let me, therefore, conclude this first segment by urging our spiritual fathers to serve as the moral compasses of our societies because we the youths look up to you. Besides your Theological and Juridical responsibilities, your concern for the youths brought you to Rome. I would like to assure you that the youths are energetic enough to climb to the peak of any pyramid; but all they need are your encouragement and an enabling environment. The Bishops would need to interface with the governments of the societies they reside in, so they could bring about the conducive environment, which serves as a precursor of growth, love and freedom. These are the conditions necessary and sufficient for the youths to explore their potentials.
31.      My official visit to Nigeria, early in February 2018, saw to a discussion on the likelihood of inviting His Holiness Pope Francis to Nigeria. The prospects looked bright. However, before I make my last few sentences, I, too, have a 2-in-1 Dubia for the Bishops: "Should the Embassy of Nigeria to the Holy See go ahead and propose to Pope Francis Nigeria’s readiness to play host to him; and if so, when would we like this to happen?". The answers do not necessarily have to be given now, my revered Bishops; but it would be appreciated if the answers could come soon enough.
32.   Finally, let me on behalf of my wife, my colleague, the Nigerian Ambassador to the Republic of Italy, my indefatigable staff of the Embassy of Nigeria to the Holy See and the rest of us here, thank you for the patience and for accepting to grace this occasion with your esteemed presence. Whilst wishing you a fruitful deliberation at the Bishops Conference, I wish you safe trips back to your respective destinations, in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, Amen. Good evening and bon appetite !!

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PROTOCOL

1.  Your Holiness Pope Francis, suitably represented by Msgr Joseph Puthenpurayil, and other Excellencies from the Curia
      Your Excellencies Ambassadors and their Spouses
      Her Excellency Mrs Coral Umo my wife and my children
      Priests & Religious men and women
      Distinguished invited guests
      My Embassy colleagues
      Nigerians in Diaspora – Italy Chapter
      Ladies and gentlemen

It is indeed my honour and privilege to welcome you to this grand reception, organized in my honour, sequel to the presentation of my Letters of Credence to His Holiness Pope Francis, a couple of hours ago.  We are also using this occasion to commemorate the 41st Anniversary of the formal institution of full diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Nigeria.  The occasion, therefore, presents a veritable platform for reminiscences, reviews and thanksgiving.  Before delving into the mainstream of my short address let me recall my early life in the Catholic fold with a lot of nostalgia.

2.  My dream as a child was to go to Rome. Fr McGuiness, a Catholic Priest in my village, gave me all the encouragement.  None of my schoolmates wanted to be part of it because they all thought Rome was somewhere in Heaven.  To go to Heaven, they reasoned, one would need to die first; and who wants to die?

3.  My knack for dreams landed me in trouble a couple of times.  In one instance, I dreamt that I was hanging from the underbelly of an airplane and shooting machine gun at some imaginary enemies.  It was at this point that my mother felt she had had enough; pronto, I was whisked to a nearby health Centre where bouts of Chloroquine injections were administered on me, because my mother had concluded I was suffering from a very severe malaria attack!


INTRODUCTION

4.  Let me thank, first and foremost, the almighty God for the love He has continued to shower on us.  He has brought us to the month of December – the month of love.  He has kept us healthy and granted us journey mercy from our various destinations.  I will also seize this opportunity to thank the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Mr Muhammadu Buhari GCFR, for considering me, amidst equally, if not more qualified Nigerians than me, fit and proper to represent him and the good people of Nigeria, at the Holy See.  My gratitude equally goes to the Holy Father for agreeing with President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR.

5.  Having said that, let me go down memory lane and capture, in a very few words the advent of the Catholic Church in Nigeria.  The Catholic Church made its entry into Nigeria, at the time the Nigerian Army nucleus was being formed, in 1863.  This means that the Roman Catholic Church and the Nigerian Army, to which I once belonged, share an umbilical cord.  We should therefore stop wondering why it was that a retired General was drafted to work with the Pope.  The groundwork had been completed 154 years ago !!

6.  Seriously speaking, the advent of the Catholic Church in Nigeria, just like other religious missions that had inroads into Nigeria, has been of tremendous blessings.  More than any mission in Nigeria, the Catholic Church established quality secondary schools, hospitals, and of course, seminaries.  Chief amongst these institutions in the Southern part of Nigeria were Holy Family College, Mercy Hospital, Queen of Apostles Seminary-all in Abak, Akwa Ibom State of Nigeria.  These days, some universities have been established.  With this focus on human capital development, the Catholic Church endeared itself to the hearts of many faithful across Nigeria.  It is therefore not surprising that the Catholic Church pools the highest number, amongst other churches in Africa, and boasts of having about 10% Christian faithful in Nigeria.

7.  Apart from Nigeria, the only country in Africa that has a substantial Catholic community is the Democratic Republic of Congo, and together with Nigeria, have the highest number of Priests in Africa.  It is, therefore, normal that those who have worked hard to bring souls to the House of God should enjoy recompense.  Consequently, Nigeria has had a bevy of Cardinals and high-ranking officials in the Catholic Church starting from Cardinal Dominic Ignatius Ekanem, Emeritus Cardinal Francis Arinze (a former Papabile), Cardinal Anthony Olubunmi Okogie, Cardinal John Onaiyekan, Cardinal Ignatius Ayau Kaigama, Archbishop Ekuwem, Archbishop Mathew Kukah, and Monsignor Fortunas Nwachukwu, to mention a few.  Indeed, the crescendo of reward came in 1998 when Pope John Paul II beatified Blessed Cyprian Michael Iwene Tansi, an indigene of Anambra State of Nigeria.

ESTABLISHMENT OF DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS

8.  Though there had been very robust relationship between the Roman Catholic Church and the Nigerian people as far back as 1863, when many institutions began to be established, the formal establishment of diplomatic relations did not take place because of various unavoidable factors.  At Nigeria’s Independence in 1960, the Vatican began moves to establish diplomatic relations with Nigeria.  Knowing how some diplomatic negotiations could drag on, just when the deal was about being sealed, there was a political upheaval in Nigeria, culminating in the first Military coup in Nigeria, in 1966.  Then followed the Nigerian Civil War that took place from 1967 – 1970.  The Catholic Church, through its charity agent – the CARITAS Internationalis – played a significant role in providing relief materials to the starving Biafrans, following the economic blockade imposed by the Federal Government during the war.

9.  Talks could not resume immediately after the Nigerian Civil War because the government was then busy on the Rehabilitation, Reconstruction and Reintegration of the Easterners, whose region was the war theatre.  When the talks eventually resumed and the deal was inches away from being sealed, General Yakubu Gown, the then Head of State, was deposed via a Military Coup, in 1975.  Notwithstanding, in a few quick months, the Diplomatic Relations was eventually established in 1976.  The relationship between the Vatican and Nigeria was by proxy, since the Nigerian Ambassador in Spain had a concurrent accreditation to the Holy See.  Things, however, changed for the better in 2012, when the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to the Holy See took its deserved seat at the Vatican, with Ambassador (Dr) Francis Okeke as the pioneer Ambassador.  Today marks the 41st Anniversary of that epochal event that started in 1976.  

10.  So, did I plan to be here on this significant day? No. My plans, after retirement, were to nurse my small hospitality outfit, do my resource person work and, perhaps, make a compendium of past lectures for the benefit of the younger ones and look after my family.  Since nature has its own designs, one cannot rigidly cling to outlined plans; and, this underscores the import of Joseph Campbell’s advice when he admonished that "WE MUST LET GO THE LIFE WE HAVE PLANNED, SO AS TO ACCEPT THE ONE THAT IS WAITING FOR US".  I let go my plans; and, now I am here occupying that which was waiting for me.

CHALLENGES OF TIME AND THEIR CAUSES

11.  In the course of my 2-month sojourn, I have had the opportunity of listening to the Holy Father’s concerns.  He is concerned about the near absence of the milk of kindness in our today’s world.  In other words, the level of man’s inhumanity to man clearly identifies the dearth of love in our society today, which has exacerbated forced migration, slavery, human trafficking and other social challenges.  This lack of love is not only limited to human relations, it has been allowed to affect the very environment on which human lives depend.

12.  The root causes of these challenges could be classified into two broad categories: causes that emanate from the attitude of man and those emanating from bad governance.  Society’s retrogressing attitude has seen to great decline in morality.  Lack of morality in today’s societies account for the hitherto unimaginable things unveiling before us.  Failed or failing states, occasioned by bad governance, is equally responsible for the challenges in question.  Corruption on the part of government, mental laziness and greed, on the part of the youths, are some of the causes of these challenges.  We must therefore commend those countries like Rwanda, Botswana, Tanzania and Nigeria that are working hard to keep corruption at bay in Africa.  These countries would keep their teeming youths from fleeing their countries if given the desired support from the international community.

13.  As for climate change, despite the Bruntland Commission’s swansong some 30 years today, the world has not taken sufficient steps to ameliorate climate change concerns.  Mindless anthropogenic activities are still embarked upon, thereby increasing Green House Gas (GHG) emissions.  Solutions to the climate change menace would start with sensitization. Many people, even in the advanced world, do not seem to be convinced about the danger climate change poses to earth’s and human existence.  Thereafter, we could talk about mitigation, and, when that does not seem to work, adaptation would seem to be the solution.

CONCLUSION

14.  This short address tried to bring up the reminiscences of some 154 years, in general, by reminding us of the advent of the Roman Catholic Church in Nigeria and the establishment of full diplomatic relations between the Vatican and Nigeria, respectively.  It also reminded us of the Holy Father’s concern for the wellbeing of the global community and what we could do to either eliminate or mitigate the identified challenges.  If we show some commitment, we could make a difference; but, If we chose to be laissez-faire, Norman Cousin advises us against indifference when occasion demands that we act, for refusal to act could adversely affect those very things or people we cherish much, if not ourselves, too.  That is why love is crucial in making the world a safe place for all.

15.  The world could be a better place for us all, if we support the Holy Father’s concern for its wellbeing.  The wellbeing of the earth can only be guaranteed through love for one another and the environment we live in.  These quotes from 3 prominent people of our time should be instructive:

        a.   George Sand    -  "There is Only One Happiness in Life;
                                                to Love and Be Loved".

        b.   Mahatma Ghandi    -    "Where There is Love, There is Life".

        c.  Mother Theresa      -     "Not All Of Us Can Do Great Things,
                                                        But We Can Do Small Things With Great Love".

Yes, we can advance the cause of mankind to the positive heights it deserves if love permeates us; and love will bring peace.  The much desired development can only thrive in a peaceful environment, and, if we desire sustainable development, we must not discountenance environmental sustainability. We would ignore our environment to our own peril. Your response to our invitation is a mark of support and friendship, we appreciate you, especially those that came all the way from Nigeria, Britain, Ireland and Italy.  God bless you all, God bless Nigeria, God bless the Vatican, God bless Italy and God bless the world.  I thank you for the rapt attention.

Bon Appetit
Buon Appetito
Enjoy Your Meal
Merry Christmas to All
Auguro a tutti Voi un Natale Sereno
JOYEUX NOËL ET BONNE ANNÉE

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After Ambassador’s arrival in Rome, already in attendance to receive him at Fiumicino Rome international airport and at Adagio Hotel, the three Nigerian  priests leading the main Catholic Nigerian Churches in Rome and its surroundings came to the Chancery to pay courtesy calls to His Excellency Ambassador Godwin George Umo OON, Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to the Holy See – Vatican City (VATICAN).

On 19th October 2017, Ambassador received in audience Rev. Fr. Matthew Eze, Chaplain of Cesano – Ladispoli (Rome), who spent some time with His Excellency narrating his priestly experiences in these years within his Church Community.

Then, on 20th October 2017, Rev. Fr. Primus Ileme, Chaplain of St. Jude and Thaddeus from Casilina – Rome, also came along with some Nigerian women wearing their traditional colourful attires to pay visit to the Ambassador. Father Primus as well shared with His Excellency his own experiences in Rome, explaining the challenges of his apostolate.

On 23rd October 2017, the Nigerian Catholic Community, known as "Saint Ambrogio Church" located at the centre of Rome, led by Rev. Fr. Joseph Akaashima paid a courtesy call to the Ambassador with a Church delegation. Founded in the year 2000, the Community - which is part of the Diocese of Rome -  is recognized by the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), whose Bishops appoint its chaplain. Father Akaashima explained the various activities of the Community and spoke of the relationship with other communities and of his idea of fostering unity among them.

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His Excellency Ambassador Godwin George Umo OON, Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to the Holy See and His Spouse, Mrs Coral George Umo, flew from Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja - Nigeria, and landed at Rome Fiumicino International Airport, Italy, on Saturday 7 October 2017.

Ambassador Umo was received by the Chargé d’Affaires ad interim as well as Head of Chancery of the Mission, Mr Stephen Anthony Awuru, along with some staff of the Mission and by Msgr Gianfranco Gallone who represented the Holy See.

The Chargé d’Affaires of the Embassy of Nigeria to Italy, Mrs Bisi Margaret Meshioye, was also on ground to welcome the new Nigerian Ambassador to the Holy See. Furthermore, a delegation of African Ambassadors accredited to the Vatican led by H.E. Mr Armindo Fernandes do Espírito Santo Vieira, in his capacity as Dean of the Diplomatic Corps and Dean of the African Group, also came to receive Ambassador Godwin George Umo at the airport. Among them were, the Ambassador of Ghana, H.E. Mr Joseph Kojo Akudibillah; the Ambassador of Ivory Coast, H.E. Mr Séverin Mathias Akeo; the Ambassador of Morocco, H.E. Mr Mostapha Arrifi; the Ambassador of Senegal, H.E. Mr Léopold Diouf, and other diplomatic staff of the Nigerian Embassy in Rome.
The Chaplains of the three main Catholic Nigerian Communities in Rome (Rev Fr Joseph Akaashima, Chaplain of Saint Ambrogio Church in Rome; Rev Fr Primus Ileme, Chaplain of St Jude and Thaddeus Church in Casilina – Rome; Rev Fr Matthew Eze, Chaplain of Cesano-Ladipsoli Church) were also at the airport as well as at Adagio Hotel for the reception organized in honour of Ambassador Godwin George Umo and Spouse.
A large number of Nigerians in Diaspora and various tribes (including the Annang) did not miss the opportunity to witness the arrival of the Ambassador. Nigerians priests and religious (NIPRELS) who are currently schooling in Rome and its surroundings, also graced the occasion.

The Nigerian Catholic Women Organization (CWO) from different parishes came in their traditional and colourful uniforms to welcome the Ambassador.
The climax of the ceremony was a short reception organized to welcome H.E. Ambassador Godwin George Umo OON to Rome and the Vatican as the representative of President Muhammadu Buhari
to the Holy See.

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October 1st remains a special date for all Nigerians as this marks the day when we attained one of the most precious of human desires — freedom.

Over the years the country has gone through trials and tribulations, but October 1st is always a day for celebrations.

It is a day for thanksgiving, reflection and re-dedication. It is also a day for remembrance. We should remind ourselves of the recent journey from 1999 – 2015, when our country happily returned to democratic rule.

However, in spite of oil prices being an average of $100 per barrel and about 2.1m barrels a day, that great piece of luck was squandered and the country’s social and physical infrastructure neglected.

We were left with no savings and huge infrastructure deficit.

The APC Government’s Campaign rallying cry to restore security, re-balance the economy and fight corruption was not all rhetoric.

The country must first be secured. The economy must be re-balanced so that we do not depend on oil alone. We must fight corruption which is Nigeria’s Number One Enemy. Our Administration is tackling these tasks in earnest.
In the past two years, Nigeria has recorded appreciable gains in political freedom. A political Party at the Centre losing elections of State Governor, National Assembly seat and even State Assemblies to the opposition parties is new to Nigeria. Added to these are complete freedom to associate, to hold and disseminate opinions. Such developments clearly attest to the country’s growing political development. But like all freedoms, this is open to abuse.

Recent calls on re-structuring, quite proper in a legitimate debate, has let in highly irresponsible groups to call for dismemberment of the country. We cannot and we will not allow such advocacy.

As a young Army Officer, I took part from the beginning to the end in our tragic civil war costing about 2m lives, resulting in fearful destruction and untold suffering. Those who are agitating for a re-run were not born by 1967 and have no idea of the horrendous consequences of the civil conflict which we went through.

I am very disappointed that responsible leaders of these communities do not warn their hot-headed youths what the country went through. Those who were there should tell those who were not there, the consequences of such folly.

At all events, proper dialogue and any desired constitutional changes should take place in a rational manner, at the National and State Assemblies. These are the proper and legal fora for National debate, not some lop-sided, un-democratic body with pre-determined set of objectives.

Government is keeping up the momentum of dialogue with stakeholders in the Niger Delta to keep the peace. We intend to address genuine grievances of the communities.

Government is grateful to the responsible leadership of those communities and will pursue lasting peace in the Niger Delta.

SECURITY
On security, Nigerians must be grateful to our gallant Armed Forces for rolling back the frontiers of Boko Haram’s terrorism, defeating them and reducing them to cowardly attacks on soft and vulnerable targets.

Nigeria is grateful to its neighbours and the international community for the collective efforts to defeat this world-wide menace of terrorism.

Not even the most organized and most equipped police and security forces in the world can escape the menace of modern day terrorism, as we have seen in recent years in Europe and other parts of the world.

But we are not letting up. Our Armed Forces in an effort to enhance the operational capability of troops of OPERATION LAFIYA DOLE have established Mobile Strike Teams in the North East. These will ensure the final push to wipe out the remnants of Boko Haram.

In addition, through targeted air strikes most of the leadership and identified logistics bases and routes of the insurgents have been neutralized. The Armed Forces have established a Naval presence in the Lake Chad Basin as part of the coordinated military efforts to curtail the movements or re-emergence of the sect in the area.

Government is working round the clock to ensure release of the remaining Chibok girls, as well as other persons in Boko Haram captivity. Government will continue to support the Armed Forces and other security agencies to fight not only terrorism, but kidnapping, armed robberies, herdsmen/farmers violence and to ensure peace, stability and security in our country.

ECONOMY
With respect to the economy, the Government has remained pro-active in its diversification policy. The Federal Government’s agricultural Anchor Borrowers Programme, which I launched in November 2015, has been an outstanding success with:

· N43.92 billion released through the CBN and 13 participating institutions,

· 200,000 small holder farmers from 29 states of the federation benefitting,

· 233,000 hectares of farmland cultivating eight commodities, namely Rice, Wheat, Maize, Cotton, soya-beans, Poultry, Cassava and Groundnuts, in addition to fish farming.

These initiatives have been undertaken in close collaboration with the states. I wish to commend the efforts of the Governors of Kebbi, Lagos, Ebonyi and Jigawa States for their support to the rice and fertilizer revolutions.

Equally commendable are contributions of the Governors of Ondo, Edo, Delta, Imo, Cross River, Benue, Ogun, Kaduna and Plateau States for their support for the Presidential initiative for palm oil, rubber, cashew, cassava, potatoes and others crops.

With the abundance of rainfall last year and this year, agriculture has enjoyed divine intervention.

Since December last year, this Administration has produced over 7 million 50Kg bags of fertilizer. Eleven blending plants with a capacity of 2.1 million metric tons have been reactivated. We have saved $150 million in foreign exchange and N60 billion in subsidy. Fertilizer prices have dropped from N13,000 per 50Kg bag to N5,500.

Furthermore, a new presidential initiative is starting with each state of the Federation creating a minimum of 10,000 jobs for unemployed youths, again with the aid of CBN’s development finance initiatives.

Power remains a huge problem. As of September 12th, production of power reached an all — time high of 7,001 Megawatts. Government is increasing its investment, clearing up the operational and financial log jam bedeviling the industry. We hope to reach 10,000 Megawatts by 2020.

Key priorities include better energy mix through solar and Hydro technologies. I am glad to say that after many years of limbo, Mambilla Power Project has taken off.

Elsewhere in the economy the special window created for manufacturers, investors and exporters, foreign exchange requirements has proved very effective. Since April, about $7 billion has come through this window alone. The main effect of these policies is improved confidence in the economy and better investment sentiments.

The country has recorded 7 consecutive months of lower inflation, Naira rate is beginning to stabilize, appreciating from N525 per $1 in February this year to N360 today. Broad-based economic growth is leading us out of recession.

Furthermore, in order to stabilize the polity, the Federal Government gave additional support to states in the form of:

·State Excess Crude Account loans,

·Budget Support Facility,

·Stabilization Fund Release to state and local government as follows:

·N200 billion in 2015

·N441 billion in 2016

·N1 trillion in 2017

Altogether totaling N1.642 trillion.

This was done to enable states to pay outstanding salaries, pensions and small business suppliers who had been all but crippled over the years.

In addition, the Government’s current N500 billion Special Intervention Programme is targeting groups through;

· Home Grown School Feeding Programme,

· N-Power Job creation to provide loans to small-scale traders and artisans,

· Conditional Cash Transfer,

·Family Homes Fund and

·Social Housing Scheme

CORRUPTION
Fellow Nigerians,

We are fully aware that fighting corruption was never going to be a straightforward task. We expected corrupt elements to use any weapon to fight back, mainly judicial obstruction and political diversion. But we are determined to eradicate corruption from our body politic.

In this fight, the Government has:

·Empowered teams of prosecutors,

·Assembled detailed databases,

·Accelerated the recovery of stolen funds The Administration’s new institutional reforms include:

·Enforcing Treasury Single Account,

·Whistle-Blowers Policy,

·Integrated Payroll Personnel and Information System

We have signed multi-lateral cooperation agreements on criminal matters with friendly countries. There are signs of increasing cooperation from the Judiciary. Recently the Chief Justice of the Federation directed Heads of all our Courts of first instance and Appeal to accelerate hearings of corruption cases and dismiss any judicial officers found to have been compromised.

Justice Salami has just been appointed to chair the Judiciary’s anti-graft committee.
Government expects a lot from this Committee.

I commend the National Assembly for refocusing on its oversight committees. They should, in addition, ensure swift passage of enabling corruption laws. But fighting corruption is a bottom to top operation. I call on all Nigerians to combat corruption at every turn. By not asking for and refusing to accept a bribe, by reporting unethical practices or by blowing a whistle, together we can beat corruption. The government for its part will work for accountability at all levels – Federal, State and Local Governments. CHANGE will then be real.

As we enter the second half of our term of office, we intend to accelerate progress and intensify our resolve to fix the country’s challenges and problems.

Thank you and a happy holiday to all of you.

God bless our country

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Abuja - Today – 1st October is a day of celebration for us Nigerians. On this day, 56 years ago our people achieved the most important of all human desires – freedom and independence. We should all therefore give thanks and pray for our founding fathers without whose efforts and toil we would not reap the bounties of today.

2. I know that uppermost in your minds today is the economic crisis. The recession for many individuals and families is real. For some It means not being able to pay school fees, for others it’s not being able to afford the high cost of food (rice and millet) or the high cost of local or international travel, and for many of our young people the recession means joblessness, sometimes after graduating from university or polytechnic.

3. I know how difficult things are, and how rough business is. All my adult life I have always earned a salary and I know what it is like when your salary simply is not enough. In every part of our nation people are making incredible sacrifices.

4. But let me say to all Nigerians today, I ran for office four times to make the point that we can rule this nation with honesty and transparency, that we can stop the stealing of Nigeria’s resources so that the resources could be used to provide jobs for our young people, security, infrastructure for commerce, education and healthcare.

5. I ran for office because I know that good government is the only way to ensure prosperity and abundance for all. I remain resolutely committed to this objective.

6. I believe that this recession will not last.

7. Temporary problems should not blind or divert us from the corrective course this government has charted for our nation. We have identified the country’s salient problems and we are working hard at lasting solutions.

8. To re-cap what I have been saying since the inception of this administration, our problems are security, corruption and the economy, especially unemployment and the alarming level of poverty.

9. On Security, we have made progress. Boko Haram was defeated by last December – only resorting to cowardly attacks on soft targets, killing innocent men, women and children.

10. Nigerians should thank our gallant men of the Armed Forces and Police for rescuing large areas of the country captured by insurgents. Now, residents in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States, as well as several neighbouring states go about their daily business in relative safety. People can go to mosques, churches, market places in reasonable safety.

11. Commuters can travel between cities, towns and villages without fear. Credit for this remarkable turn-round should go to our Armed Forces, the Police, various sponsored and private vigilante groups, the local traditional leaders. Security is a top to bottom concern and responsibility.

12. Besides Boko Haram, we are confronting other long-running security issues, namely herdsmen vs farmers, cattle rustling, kidnappings. This Administration is firmly resolved to tackle these challenges and to defeat them.

13. A new insurgency has reared up its head in the shape of blowing up gas and oil pipelines by groups of Niger Delta Militants. This Administration will not allow these mindless groups to hold the country to ransom.

14. What sense is there to damage a gas line as a result of which many towns in the country including their own town or village is put in darkness as a result? What logic is there in blowing up an export pipeline and as a result income to your state and local governments and consequently their ability to provide services to your own people is reduced?

15. No group can unlawfully challenge the authority of the Federal Government and succeed. Our Administration is fully sympathetic to the plight of the good people of Niger Delta and we are in touch with the State Governments and leaderships of the region. It is known that the clean-up of the Ogoniland has started. Infrastructural projects financed by the Federal Government and post amnesty programme financing will continue.

16. We have however, continued to dialogue with all groups and leaders of thought in the region to bring lasting peace.

17. Corruption is a cancer which must be fought with all the weapons at our disposal. It corrodes the very fabric of government and destroys society. Fighting corruption is Key, not only to restoring the moral health of the nation, but also to freeing our enormous resources for urgent socio-economic development.

18. In fighting corruption, however, the government would adhere strictly by the rule of law. Not for the first time I am appealing to the judiciary to join the fight against corruption.

19. The Third Plank in this Administration’s drive to CHANGE Nigeria is re-structuring the economy. Economies behaviour is cyclical. All countries face ups and downs. Our own recession has been brought about by a critical shortage of foreign exchange. Oil price dropped from an average of hundred USD per barrel over the last decade to an average of forty USD per barrel this year and last.

20. Worse still, the damage perpetrated by Niger Delta thugs on pipelines sometimes reduced Nigeria’s production to below One million barrels per day against the normal two point two million barrels per day. Consequently, the naira is at its weakest, but the situation will stabilize.

21. But this is only temporary. Historically about half our dollar export earnings go to importation of petroleum and food products! Nothing was saved for the rainy days during the periods of prosperity. We are now reaping the whirlwinds of corruption, recklessness and impunity.

22. There are no easy solutions, but there are solutions nonetheless and Government is pursuing them in earnest. We are to repair our four refineries so that Nigeria can produce most of our petrol requirements locally, pending the coming on stream of new refineries. That way we will save ten billion USD yearly in importing fuel.

23. At the same time, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and the Central Bank have been mobilized to encourage local production of rice, maize, sorghum, millet and soya beans. Our target is to achieve domestic self-sufficiency in these staples by 2018.

24. Already farmers in thirteen out of thirty six states are receiving credit support through the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Anchor Borrowers Programme. Kebbi state alone this year is expected to produce one million tonnes of locally grown rice, thanks to a favourable harvest this year. As part of the 13 states, Lagos and Ogun are also starting this programme. Rice alone for example costs Nigeria two billion USD to import.

25. The country should be self-sufficient in basic staples by 2019. Foreign exchange thus saved can go to industrial revival requirements for retooling, essential raw materials and spare parts. It is in recognition of the need to re-invigorate agriculture in our rural communities that we are introducing the LIFE programme.

26. Government recognises that irrigation is key to modern agriculture: that is why the Ministries of Agriculture and Water Resources are embarking on a huge programme of development of lakes, earth dams and water harvesting schemes throughout the country to ensure that we are no longer dependent on rain-fed agriculture for our food requirements.

27. In addition, government is introducing Water Resources Bill encompassing the National Water Resources Policy and National Irrigation and Drainage Policy to improve management of water and irrigation development in the country. We are reviving all the twelve River Basin Authorities, namely;

I.      Anambra – Imo
II.     Benin – Owena
III.    Chad Basin
IV.    Cross River
V.     Hadejia – Jama’are
VI.    Lower Benue
VII.   Lower Niger
VIII.  Niger Delta
IX.     Ogun – Osun
X.       Sokoto – Rima
XI.      Upper Benue
XII.    Upper Niger

28. The intention is eventually to fully commercialise them to better support crop production, aqua –culture and accelerated rural development.

29. This Administration is committed to the revival of Lake Chad and improvement of the hydrology and ecology of the basin. This will tune in with efforts to rehabilitate the thirty million people affected by the Boko Haram insurgency in the Lake Chad basin countries.

30. The second plank in our economic revival strategy is centred on the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing. The Ministry will lead and oversee the provision of critical infrastructure of power, road transport network and housing development.

31. Power generation has steadily risen since our Administration came on board from three thousand three hundred and twenty four megawatts in June 2015, rising to a peak of five thousand and seventy four megawatts in February 2016.

32. For the first time in our history the country was producing five thousand megawatts. However, renewed militancy and destruction of gas pipelines caused acute shortage of gas and constant drop in electricity output available on the grid.

33. There has been during the period June 2015 to September 2016 big improvement in transmission capacity from five thousand five hundred megawatts to the present seven thousand three hundred megawatts.

34. There were only two system collapses between June and December 2015, but due to vandalism by Niger Delta militants the over-all system suffered 16 system collapses between March and July 2016 alone. As I have said earlier, we are engaging with responsible leadership in the region to find lasting solutions to genuine grievances of the area but we will not allow a tiny minority of thugs to cripple the country’s economy.

35. In the meantime, government is going ahead with projects utilizing alternate technologies such as hydro, wind, and solar to contribute to our energy mix. In this respect, the Mambilla Hydro project, after many years of delay is taking off this year. Contract negotiations are nearing completion with Chinese firms for technical and financial commitments.

36. The project is to be jointly financed by Nigeria and the Chinese-Export-Import Bank. In addition, fourteen Solar Power Projects have had their power purchase agreements concluded. Hence the plan to produce one thousand two hundred megawatts of solar electricity for the country would be realized on schedule.

37. And in line with the objective of government to complete all abandoned projects across the country, the Rural Electrification Agency’s projects needing completion are provided for in the 2016 Budget. Bringing electricity to rural areas will help farmers, small scale and cottage industries to integrate with the national economy.

38. Roads Construction and Rehabilitation has taken off. The sum of twelve billion naira was allocated to this sector in the 2015 Budget, not enough even to pay interest on outstanding unpaid claims.

39. Notwithstanding the budgetary constraints, the current budget allocated two hundred and forty billion naira for highway projects against twelve billion naira in 2015. Many contractors who have not been paid for three years have now remobilized to sites. Seven hundred and twenty point five billion naira has so far been released this budget year to capital projects.

40. The Ministry of Power, Works and Housing has received one hundred and ninety seven point five billion naira. Work on the following highways has now resumed.

1. Dualization of Calabar – Itu Road in Cross River/Akwa Ibom States.
2.   Dualization of Lokoja – Benin Road, Ehor – Benin city, Edo State.
3.   Re-construction of outstanding sections of Benin – Shagamu Express way, Edo/Ogun States.
4.   Expansion works on Lagos – Ibadan Dual carriageway, Ogun/Oyo States
5.   Rehabilitation of Onitsha – Enugu Expressway, Anambra/Enugu States.
6.  Rehabilitation and Reconstruction of Enugu – Port Harcourt Dual carriageway, Abia/Rivers States.
7.   Rehabilitation of Hadejia – Nguru Road, Jigawa State.
8.   Dualization of Kano – Katsina Road, Kano State.
9.   Dualization of Kano – Maiduguri Road, Borno State.
10. Dualization of Azare – Potiskum Road, Azare – Sharuri Road, Bauchi State
11. Rehabilitation of Ilorin – Jebba – Mokwa – Birnin Gwari Road, Kwara State.
12. Construction of Oju/Lokoja – Oweto Bridge over River Benue, Benue State.

41. Other major highways are in the queue for rehabilitation or new construction.

42. Already contractors have recalled about nine thousand workers laid off and Government expects that several hundreds of thousands of workers will be reengaged in the next few months as our public works programme gains momentum.

43. On railways, we have provided our counterpart funding to China for the building of our standard gauge Lagos -Kano railway. Meanwhile, General Electric is investing two point two billion USD in a concession to revamp, provide rolling stock, and manage the existing lines, including the Port Harcourt-Maiduguri Line. The Lagos-Calabar railway will also be on stream soon.

44. We have initiated the National Housing Programme. In 2014 four hundred million naira was voted for Housing. In 2015 nothing. Our first budget this year is devoting thirty five point six billion naira. Much of the house building will be private – sector led but Government is initiating a pilot housing scheme of two thousand eight hundred and thirty eight units uniformly spread across the 36 states and FCT.

45. We expect these units to be completed within 4 – 6 months. These experimental Nigeria House model Units will be constructed using only made in Nigeria building materials and components. This initiative is expected to reactivate the building materials manufacturing sector, generate massive employment opportunities and develop sector capacity and expertise.

46. The programmes I have outlined will revive the economy, restore the value of the naira and drive hunger from our land.

47. Abroad, Nigeria’s standing has changed beyond belief in the last 18 months. We are no longer a pariah state. Wherever I go, I have been received with un-accustomed hospitality. Investors from all over the world are falling over themselves to come and do business in Nigeria. This government intends to make business environment more friendly because we can not develop ourselves alone.

48. All countries, no matter how advanced, welcome foreign investments to their economy. This is the essence of globalization and no country in the 21st century can be an island. Our reforms are therefore designed to prepare Nigeria for the 21st century.

49. Finally, let me commend Nigerians for your patience, steadfastness and perseverance. You know that I am trying to do the right things for our country.

50. Thank you and may God bless our country.


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The Catholic Bishops in Nigeria have given their position on the institution of marriage and the family, reiterating their opposition to same-sex marriage saying, "Marriage is the sacred union of one man and one woman for the begetting and care of children".

The Bishops’ statement was officially released on 8 July and was signed by Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) and Bishop William Avenya, Bishop of Gboko who is Secretary of the Bishops’ Conference.

(CANAA)

Below is the full statement of the Catholic Bishops in Nigeria.

Our Stand On Marriage, family and human society

The Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria would like to once again reiterate the perspective of the Church on more recent developments concerning the sanctity and dignity of human life and the institutions of marriage and the family all across the world.  The recent rise in Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender activism, the popular vote in the Republic of Ireland and the Supreme Court decision in the United States of America will tend to provoke a notable and rapid shift in public opinion about the nature and meaning of marriage and family as it has been known for millennia. This, in many countries, has inevitably led to powerful legislative and judicial maneuvers to redefine marriage in order to include "same-sex marriage". We wish to state that this is a sad, unjust and lamentable situation based largely upon a distorted perception of natural law, the will of God and human nature.

Canada, Spain, France, United Kingdom, Ireland and most recently, the United States of America are some of the countries that have gone down this path. They are nations who undeniably have cultural, social and economic influence upon many African nations including Nigeria. Mozambique has not yet accepted same-sex marriage but they have struck down their legal ban on sodomy, thereby opening the door to the festering of the homosexual culture/subculture within their society. Our people daily interact with these and other nations at different levels. These countries also generate a lot of the media content consumed in our country and continent as well as much of the educational materials used in our schools.  They also give generous humanitarian aid to various establishments and projects in our country and continent. In these ways, their views, thoughts and trends are easily embedded into the heart of our society and influence many people especially the impressionable young ones.

As Catholic Bishops of Nigeria, we are grateful for these interactions and support. We are however also concerned for the influence which some of these trends could have on morality and values.  We therefore hereby express our concern with regard to the persistent and continuous propagation and globalization of the homosexual lifestyle and the effort to redefine marriage which is a distorted view of human sexuality, coming especially from the Western world.

We call on our leaders to be circumspect.  Accepting this western trend by officially endorsing homosexual unions or "same-sex marriage" will be devastating and detrimental to our nation, Nigeria as it will lead to the inevitable deconstruction of the family and the society at large with other serious but negative implications.

On our part we hereby re-emphasize that Marriage is the sacred union of one man and one woman for the begetting and care of children. It forms the core of the family which is the bedrock and foundational cell of our civilization and as such it is sanctioned by God, upheld by our culture, celebrated in our society and protected by our government.  The family deserves the protection from all civilized institutions as it predates society and is not subject to it. So our role is to promote it, protect it and preserve it at a time like this when many countries have unfortunately chosen a different path.

We call upon President Muhammadu Buhari and all our esteemed leaders, legislators and judges to shun all pressures and protect all Nigerians from the growing but dangerous influence of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender propaganda.  We appeal to professionals in the domains of media, music, entertainment, teaching, medicine, marketing and business to become faithful gatekeepers by protecting the public from the infiltration of this propaganda which is often spread through various media and forums. We encourage parents to educate their children on the immutable meaning of marriage so as to strengthen them to stand fearless by the indelible truth in a rapidly changing world. We urge young people to learn and hold firmly unto sound religious and cultural values that celebrate the beauty and blessings of marriage as the lifelong union between one man and one woman.

Finally we pray that God will grant us all the courage, integrity and perseverance needed at this time to uphold the unchangeable truth about the dignity of human sexuality and the sanctity of the institution of marriage.

(Source: Vatican Radio)

***

"A lot of our people are back, but they look sick, hungry and traumatised"

"For us the big story is that most of our people are coming back to their communities, though such communities are not generally safe.  Residents have to begin their lives anew. Many towns, homes, schools, hospitals, bridges have been razed down by the bombs of Boko Haram. Generally life and movement in this part of Nigeria is very difficult".  These are the words of Fr. Gideon Obasogie, the social communications director of the Catholic Diocese of Maiduguri in Nigeria. He said this to Vatican Radio’s English Service for Africa recently.

Although the Nigerian military, buoyed by Chadian and Cameroonian forces, has made significant gains on Boko Haram, in recent months and rescued more than 1,000 kidnapped persons, the danger from Boko Haram is far from over in the northeast of Nigeria. As if to underscore this, in the last two weeks alone, Boko Haram went on rampage killing more than 300 persons in a wave of bomb attacks in several towns and villages.

Notwithstanding the dangers, Fr. Obasogie says people are returning to their villages and towns due to the slight improvement in the security of the area.

"A lot of our people are back, but they look sick, hungry and traumatised", Fr. Gideon Obasogie said. With no recourse to counselling, these communities need support.  The Bishop of Maiduguri, Oliver Dashe Doeme, has taken the unusual step of sending priests to exactly these same communities where security is far from certain. He wants the priests to accompany the people as they try to rebuild their lives.

"One of the main pastoral activities of the Bishop of Maiduguri is to strengthen the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). Bishop Dashe has sent priests back to these communities to pastorally assist the returnees", said Fr. Obasogie.

Asked about the new Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari, who vowed in his first post-election pronouncement, "to spare no effort in tackling (the Boko Haram) insurgency", Fr. Obasogie said, "The Buhari administration is doing its best to end the insurgency. The military is advancing and recapturing those communities that were under the terrorists' control". Fr. Obasogie was however quick to add that, "A lot of people are still afraid of the presence of suicide bombers around the city and villages", he said.

According to Fr. Obasogie, the returnees who are coming back as IDPs or as refugees "are dissatisfied with the Nigerian situation of long term promises. They are finding life really hard. A good number of them are still waiting with little hope on the new (Buhari) administration", he underlined. He says the returnees would like to see their ruined homes and lives rebuilt.  Many look up to the Church for assistance. "Bishop Dashe has therefore focused on supporting the people.  The people have to reconstruct their lives.  But, before reconstructing our burnt structures, there is need to feed, clothe, give medical care and trauma counseling to sections of our heavily traumatised people", pointed out Fr. Obasogie.

Amidst fears of suicide bombers in crowded places such as Churches, the Diocese of Maiduguri recently witnessed an ordination ceremony in one of the communities that was previously bombed and ransacked by Boko Haram.  Three priests were ordained.  Priests and the faithful from far distant dioceses cast aside their fears and joined Maiduguri Diocese at the ordination Mass.  

"This was a strong sign of solidarity and our people rejoiced greatly upon seeing such unity in faith", said an overwhelmed Fr. Obasogie.  At the same ceremony, Bishop Dashe took the opportunity to encourage the people of Maiduguri and beyond to remain faithful to the Gospel. He also said, "The Rosary prayer for Mary's intercession is the only live line we have got…forgiveness is of paramount importance", Fr. Obasogie added.

Fr. Obasogie says that against all odds, "The faith of the Church in this part of the country is truly growing.  We appreciate all people of good will who have demonstrated their love and care towards the suffering Church of Maiduguri Diocese. Our people have come to experience greater faith than ever before.  They hold on to their faith in their plight and difficulties. God is all we have now", he emphasised.

Maiduguri in the northeast of Nigeria has been the scene of great ‘religious’ violence since 2009 when an Islamist terrorist group, Boko Haram began its rebel activities.  In 2013, desperately trying to contain the situation, former President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in the northeast of Nigeria.

As of April 2015, Nigeria was said to have more than a million and a half Internally displaced persons (IDPs) most of them due to the insurgency in the northeast of the country. In October 2014, then President, Goodluck Jonathan said that more than 13 000 people had been killed in the Boko Haram insurgency. Many innocent civilians have been injured in the brutal campaign by the Islamist group while hundreds have been abducted by the militants.

The death toll of 13 000 given by Goodluck Jonathan has been broadly accepted as fairly accurate by the international community and by africacheck.org.  Others such as the Nigeria Security Tracker, a project run by the Africa programme of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) has given higher estimates because according to them, the number of casualties is usually three to five times what is actually reported. Therefore they estimate that the death toll due to the Boko Haram insurgency stands at over 17,500. This figure is for the period May 2011 to August 2014.

The Boko Haram insurgency has since spread to Cameroon, Chad and Niger.
Monday this week, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari reorganised the whole military top brass. He appointed new defence chiefs after firing the heads of the army, navy and air force inherited from the former president.
(Source: Vatican Radio, by Fr. Paul Samasumo)

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I am immensely grateful to God Who Has preserved us to witness this day and this occasion. Today marks a triumph for Nigeria and an occasion to celebrate her freedom and cherish her democracy. Nigerians have shown their commitment to democracy and are determined to entrench its culture. Our journey has not been easy but thanks to the determination of our people and strong support from friends abroad we have today a truly democratically elected government in place.

I would like to thank President Goodluck Jonathan for his display of statesmanship in setting a precedent for us that has now made our people proud to be Nigerians wherever they are. With the support and cooperation he has given to the transition process, he has made it possible for us to show the world that despite the perceived tension in the land we can be a united people capable of doing what is right for our nation. Together we co-operated to surprise the world that had come to expect only the worst from Nigeria. I hope this act of graciously accepting defeat by the outgoing President will become the standard of political conduct in the country.

I would like to thank the millions of our supporters who believed in us even when the cause seemed hopeless. I salute their resolve in waiting long hours in rain and hot sunshine to register and cast their votes and stay all night if necessary to protect and ensure their votes count and were counted.  I thank those who tirelessly carried the campaign on the social media. At the same time, I thank our other countrymen and women who did not vote for us but contributed to make our democratic culture truly competitive, strong and definitive.

I thank all of you.

Having just a few minutes ago sworn on the Holy Book, I intend to keep my oath and serve as President to all Nigerians.

I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody.

A few people have privately voiced fears that on coming back to office I shall go after them. These fears are groundless. There will be no paying off old scores. The past is prologue.

Our neighbours in the Sub-region and our African brethenen should rest assured that Nigeria under our administration will be ready to play any leadership role that Africa expects of it. Here I would like to thank the governments and people of Cameroon, Chad and Niger for committing their armed forces to fight Boko Haram in Nigeria.

I also wish to assure the wider international community of our readiness to cooperate and help to combat threats of cross-border terrorism, sea piracy, refugees and boat people, financial crime, cyber crime, climate change, the spread of communicable diseases and other challenges of the 21st century.

At home we face enormous challenges. Insecurity, pervasive corruption, the hitherto unending and seemingly impossible fuel and power shortages are the immediate concerns. We are going to tackle them head on. Nigerians will not regret that they have entrusted national responsibility to us. We must not succumb to hopelessness and defeatism. We can fix our problems.

In recent times Nigerian leaders appear to have misread our mission. Our founding fathers, Mr Herbert Macauley, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Alhaji Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto, Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Malam Aminu Kano, Chief J.S. Tarka, Mr Eyo Ita, Chief Denis Osadeby, Chief Ladoke Akintola and their colleagues worked to establish certain standards of governance. They might have differed in their methods or tactics or details, but they were united in establishing a viable and progressive country. Some of their successors behaved like spoilt children breaking everything and bringing disorder to the house.

Furthermore, we as Nigerians must remind ourselves that we are heirs to great civilizations: Shehu Othman Dan fodio’s caliphate, the Kanem Borno Empire, the Oyo Empire, the Benin Empire and King Jaja’s formidable domain. The blood of those great ancestors flow in our veins. What is now required is to build on these legacies, to modernize and uplift Nigeria.

Daunting as the task may be it is by no means insurmountable. There is now a national consensus that our chosen route to national development is democracy. To achieve our objectives we must consciously work the democratic system. The Federal Executive under my watch will not seek to encroach on the duties and functions of the Legislative and Judicial arms of government. The law enforcing authorities will be charged to operate within the Constitution. We shall rebuild and reform the public service to become more effective and more serviceable. We shall charge them to apply themselves with integrity to stabilize the system.

For their part the legislative arm must keep to their brief of making laws, carrying out over-sight functions and doing so expeditiously. The judicial system needs reform to cleanse itself from its immediate past. The country now expects the judiciary to act with dispatch on all cases especially on corruption, serious financial crimes or abuse of office. It is only when the three arms act constitutionally that government will be enabled to serve the country optimally and avoid the confusion all too often bedeviling governance today.

Elsewhere relations between Abuja and the States have to be clarified if we are to serve the country better. Constitutionally there are limits to powers of each of the three tiers of government but that should not mean the Federal Government should fold its arms and close its eyes to what is going on in the states and local governments. Not least the operations of the Local Government Joint Account. While the Federal Government can not interfere in the details of its operations it will ensure that the gross corruption at the local level is checked. As far as the constitution allows me I will try to ensure that there is responsible and accountable governance at all levels of government in the country. For I will not have kept my own trust with the Nigerian people if I allow others abuse theirs under my watch.

However, no matter how well organized the governments of the federation are they can not succeed without the support, understanding and cooperation of labour unions, organized private sector, the press and civil society organizations. I appeal to employers and workers alike to unite in raising productivity so that everybody will have the opportunity to share in increased prosperity. The Nigerian press is the most vibrant in Africa. My appeal to the media today – and this includes the social media – is to exercise its considerable powers with responsibility and patriotism.

My appeal for unity is predicated on the seriousness of the legacy we are getting into. With depleted foreign reserves, falling oil prices, leakages and debts the Nigerian economy is in deep trouble and will require careful management to bring it round and to tackle the immediate challenges confronting us, namely; Boko Haram, the Niger Delta situation, the power shortages and unemployment especially among young people. For the longer term we have to improve the standards of our education. We have to look at the whole field of medicare. We have to upgrade our dilapidated physical infrastructure.

The most immediate is Boko Haram’s insurgency. Progress has been made in recent weeks by our security forces but victory can not be achieved by basing the Command and Control Centre in Abuja. The command centre will be relocated to Maiduguri and remain until Boko Haram is completely subdued. But we can not claim to have defeated Boko Haram without rescuing the Chibok girls and all other innocent persons held hostage by insurgents.

This government will do all it can to rescue them alive. Boko Haram is a typical example of small fires causing large fires. An eccentric and unorthodox preacher with a tiny following was given posthumous fame and following by his extra judicial murder at the hands of the police. Since then through official bungling, negligence, complacency or collusion Boko Haram became a terrifying force taking tens of thousands of lives and capturing several towns and villages covering swathes of Nigerian sovereign territory.

Boko Haram is a mindless, godless group who are as far away from Islam as one can think of. At the end of the hostilities when the group is subdued the Government intends to commission a sociological study to determine its origins, remote and immediate causes of the movement, its sponsors, the international connexions to ensure that measures are taken to prevent a reccurrence of this evil. For now the Armed Forces will be fully charged with prosecuting the fight against Boko haram. We shall overhaul the rules of engagement to avoid human rights violations in operations. We shall improve operational and legal mechanisms so that disciplinary steps are taken against proven human right violations by the Armed Forces.
Boko Haram is not only the security issue bedeviling our country. The spate of kidnappings, armed robberies, herdsmen/farmers clashes, cattle rustlings all help to add to the general air of insecurity in our land. We are going to erect and maintain an efficient, disciplined people – friendly and well – compensated security forces within an over – all security architecture.

The amnesty programme in the Niger Delta is due to end in December, but the Government intends to invest heavily in the projects, and programmes currently in place. I call on the leadership and people in these areas to cooperate with the State and Federal Government in the rehabilitation programmes which will be streamlined and made more effective. As ever, I am ready to listen to grievances of my fellow Nigerians. I extend my hand of fellowship to them so that we can bring peace and build prosperity for our people.

No single cause can be identified to explain Nigerian’s poor economic performance over the years than the power situation. It is a national shame that an economy of 180 million generates only 4,000MW, and distributes even less. Continuous tinkering with the structures of power supply and distribution and close on $20b expanded since 1999 have only brought darkness, frustration, misery, and resignation among Nigerians. We will not allow this to go on. Careful studies are under way during this transition to identify the quickest, safest and most cost-effective way to bring light and relief to Nigerians.

Unemployment, notably youth un-employment features strongly in our Party’s Manifesto. We intend to attack the problem frontally through revival of agriculture, solid minerals mining as well as credits to small and medium size businesses to kick – start these enterprises. We shall quickly examine the best way to revive major industries and accelerate the revival and development of our railways, roads and general infrastructure.

Your Excellencies, My fellow Nigerians I can not recall when Nigeria enjoyed so much goodwill abroad as now. The messages I received from East and West, from powerful and small countries are indicative of international expectations on us. At home the newly elected government is basking in a reservoir of goodwill and high expectations. Nigeria therefore has a window of opportunity to fulfill our long – standing potential of pulling ourselves together and realizing our mission as a great nation.

Our situation somehow reminds one of a passage in Shakespeare’s Julius Ceasar
There is a tide in the affairs of men which,
taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life,
Is bound in shallows and miseries.

We have an opportunity. Let us take it.

Thank you
Muhammadu Buhari
President Federal Republic of NIGERIA
and
Commander in-chief-of the Armed forces

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 The entire board of the Nigerian Christian Pilgrims Commission including the State Chairmen and Secretaries of the Christian Welfare boards paid a courtesy call on the Nigerian Ambassador to the Holy See, Dr. Francis Okeke on the 16 th May 2015.
 Leading the delegation was the Executive Secretary Dr. John Kennedy Opara (OFR), who informed Ambassador Okeke, they were in Rome to assess the state of readiness of facilities and interview ground-handlers that cater for pilgrims visiting Italy.
 The Ambassador commended them for the important work they do in ensuring the spiritual development of our people as well as thanking the Chairman and Executive Secretary NCPC for opening the modern Leadership Centre of CAN in Abuja at considerable cost.
 His Excellency Dr. Okeke also noted the giant strides made by the NCPC board and staff in the previous 5 years not only in infrastructure but also in organization of hitch-free pilgrimage to Israel, Greece and Rome.
 He cautioned them to work harder to attract more fee paying pilgrims to Rome, and Vatican City in particular since Italy was steeped in over 2000 years of Christian history and tradition.
 The delegation returned to Nigeria within 48 hours of their visit and presented the ambassador with the first edition of the Nigerian Pilgrim magazine, a quarterly of the NCPC.
 Also in the month of May, the Nigerians in Diaspora Organization Europe paid a courtesy call through their Italian arm to the Embassy. During their visit, they showed appreciation for the support given them at their annual board of Trustees meeting held November 2014 by the Embassy of Nigeria to the Holy See.
Ambassador Okeke commended them for the various projects earmarked for Nigeria and reminded of the need to give total support to the new government in Nigeria.
He also noted the unqualified success of the March 28 th and April 13 th elections in Nigeria and praised Nigerians for a job well done as the nation’s positive democratic credentials continue to draw the attention of the world and our continent.

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To the Bishops of Nigeria

Dear Brother Bishops,
           While we walk this Lenten journey towards the Resurrection of the Lord united with the whole Church, I wish to extend to you, dear Archbishops and Bishops of Nigeria, a fraternal greeting, which I extend to the beloved Christian communities entrusted to your pastoral care.  I would also like to share some thoughts with you on the current situation in your country.
             Nigeria, known as the "African giant", with its more than 160 million inhabitants, is set to play a primary role, not only in Africa but in the world at large.  In recent years, it has experienced robust growth in the economic sphere and has again reasserted itself on the world stage as an attractive market, on account of its natural resources as well as its commercial potential.  It is now considered officially the single largest African economy.  It has also distinguished itself as a political player widely committed to the resolution of crisis situations in the continent.
           At the same time, your nation has had to confront considerable problems, among them new and violent forms of extremism and fundamentalism on ethnic, social and religious grounds.  Many Nigerians have been killed, wounded or mutilated, kidnapped and deprived of everything: their loved ones, their land, their means of subsistence, their dignity and their rights.  Many have not been able to return to their homes.  Believers, both Christian and Muslim, have experienced a common tragic outcome, at the hands of people who claim to be religious, but who instead abuse religion, to make of it an ideology for their own distorted interests of exploitation and murder.
              I would like to assure you and all who suffer of my closeness.  Every day I remember you in my prayers and I repeat here, for your encouragement and comfort, the consoling words of the Lord Jesus, which must always resound in our hearts: "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you" (Jn 14:27).
           Peace – as you know so well – is not only the absence of conflict or the result of political compromise or fatalistic resignation.  Peace is for us a gift which comes from on high; it is Jesus Christ himself, the Prince of Peace, who has made of two peoples one (cf. Eph 2:14).  And only the man or woman who treasures the peace of Christ as a guiding light and way of life can become a peacemaker (cf. Mt 5:9).
           At the same time, peace is a daily endeavour, a courageous and authentic effort to favour reconciliation, to promote experiences of sharing, to extend bridges of dialogue, to serve the weakest and the excluded.  In a word, peace consists in building up a "culture of encounter".
           And so I wish here to express my heartfelt thanks to you, because in the midst of so many trials and sufferings the Church in Nigeria does not cease to witness to hospitality, mercy and forgiveness.  How can we fail to remember the priests, religious men and women, missionaries and catechists who, despite untold sacrifices, never abandoned their flock, but remained at their service as good and faithful heralds of the Gospel?  To them, most particularly, I would like to express my solidarity, and to say: do not grow tired of doing what is right!
        We give thanks to the Lord for them, as for so many men and women of every social, cultural and religious background, who with great willingness stand up in concrete ways to every form of violence, and whose efforts are directed at favouring a more secure and just future for all.  They offer us moving testimonies, which, as Pope Benedict XVI recalled at the end of the Synod for Africa, show "the power of the Spirit to transform the hearts of victims and their persecutors and thus to re-establish fraternity" (Africae Munus, 20).
         Dear Brother Bishops, in perseverance and without becoming discouraged, go forward on the way of peace (cf. Lk 1:79).  Accompany the victims!  Come to the aid of the poor!  Teach the youth!  Become promoters of a more just and fraternal society!
         I gladly impart to you my Apostolic Blessing, which I ask you to extend to priests, religious, missionaries, catechists, lay faithful and above all to those suffering members of the Body of Christ.
       May the Resurrection of the Lord bring conversion, reconciliation and peace to all the people of Nigeria!  I commend you to Mary, Queen of Africa, and I ask you also to pray for me.

FRANCISCUS PP.

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The Federal Government and the Catholic Church in Nigeria have initiated a collaboration to take care of thousands of displaced Nigerians living in Refugee Camps in some parts of Cameroun. This fact was disclosed by the Catholic Archbishop of Jos and President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), Most Rev. Ignatius Ayau Kaigama while addressing the faithful at the closing Mass of the first 2015 CBCN Plenary, held at the church of the Holy Trinity, Maitama, Abuja.
The collaboration was as a result of the call for assistance by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Cameroun to the Nigerian Conference; to enable them to continue to take care of displaced Nigerians living in different camps in the country.
It will be recalled that, at the opening Mass of the Plenary, the CBCN President informed of the plight of displaced Nigerians living in Cameroun and sought the assistance of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, who was at the ceremony and the Government to facilitate the efforts of the two Bishops’ Conferences at taking care of the affected people. In response to the request, President Jonathan called for more information and promised that the government will come to the rescue of the displaced Nigerians through the Church.
Archbishop Kaigama, at the closing Mass further informed the congregation that; in response to the request of the CBCN, the Presidency has released the sum of 50Million Naira to the Conference to enable the body collaborate with their Cameroonian counterparts to take care of the displaced Nigerians in camps in Cameroun. He added that the members of the CBCN have contributed the sum of Ten Million Naira, to bring the total sum of money for the collaborative effort to Sixty Million Naira.
It is estimated that there may be about 36,000 Nigerians displaced to the Cameroon as the result of the insurgency in the Northeast. With the recent improvement in security in the 3 affected States, several have begun their return to Nigeria. The Nigerian Embassy and Consulates in the Republic of Cameroon are also assisting our displaced citizens.
The Metropolitan of Jos also expressed the hope that a representative of the Federal Government will be in the team that will visit Cameroun for on the spot assessment and discussion with the Bishops’ Conference of Cameroun.
The Metropolitan of Jos also reminded the faithful of their obligation to support displaced Nigerians who have been affected by the Boko Haram insurgency by being actively involved in the relief programmes of the Church being organized by various dioceses and the Catholic Caritas Foundation of Nigeria (CCFN). He also urged them not to relent in their support for the Veritas University of Nigeria, by donating generously and sending their children and wards to the university; which is noted for quality education and formation of students.

(source: http://www.cbcn-ng.org/)


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Dear Great People of our nation,

1. I greet and felicitate with you all as we enter the New Year today. As we mark the beginning of this New Year, 2015, a new nation is being born. A new nation is being born because of the foundations we have all laid, working together for the good and progress of our dear fatherland.

2. I join you all in thanking God Almighty who has brought us this far, for continually bestowing His Grace upon us and for guiding our great nation safely through all the challenges of the past year.

3.This year, as in the year past, I reaffirm my commitment to work to ensure a secure future for our dear country and the generations yet unborn.

4. Last year, we celebrated our hundredth year of nation hood. The year brought us further progress, challenges and fresh opportunities.

5.We have contended with the normal challenges of nation-building and the unusual challenges of terrorism.

6.But we have continued to vigorously confront those who seek to destroy the bonds of unity that hold us together.

7. On this first day of the New Year, I want to pay special tribute to the gallant officers, men and women of our Armed Forces and other security agencies who have been in the forefront of the war against terrorism and violent extremism in our country and sub-region.

8. I also commend all Nigerians who have remained vigilant and cooperative with our security agencies in the fight against the common enemy.

9.We are re-equipping and re-positioning our armed forces to enhance their capacity to win the ongoing war against terror and insurgency.

10. Regrettably, terrorists have unleashed much pain and agony on our land. They have made widows of our mothers and sisters and orphans of our children. They have shutdown businesses, desecrated places of worship and brought untold hardship to both men and women. They have violated the culture and peaceful way of life in our country, which took generations to build.

11. They have destroyed countless schools and displaced people from their communities, driving them into exile.

12. I want to assure you that the terrorists will not getaway with their atrocities: they will not win; they will be routed. As President, I feel the pain of all affected communities and families. I hear their cries and share their sorrow and pain.

13. We will not forget; we will not look the other way. We have done a lot of painstaking planning and work to resolve the current security challenge. We will bring justice to the savage terrorists known as Boko Haram. They will be defeated.
14.That is the solemn commitment I make today as President of the Federal Republic, and Commander-in-Chief of our Armed Forces.

15. By the Special Grace of God, the Federal Government, under my leadership, has continued, in the past four years to lead our country forward, even under the most trying circumstances.

16.The progress we have made in priority areas bears us testimony.

17. Amongst other achievements, we have rehabilitated and expanded our rail transportation network, successfully privatized power generation and distribution, significantly reformed and increased local participation in our oil and gas industry, and improved nationwide access to potable water from 57% in 2010, to 70% at present.

18. We have also made significant progress in improving access to primary, secondary and tertiary education by building and equipping more schools, including special Almajiri schools, and establishing additional universities to ensure that each state of the nation now has at least one Federal University.

19. Our national economy maintained a steady growth rate of close to seven per cent in the past four years and millions of fresh employment opportunities were created for our people as a direct consequence.

20. Recently, we launched the Youth Employment in Agriculture Programme (YEAP) and the $100 million dollars Government and Donor Fund for Agriculture Finance in Nigeria (FAFIN) to fast-track the positive transformation of our agricultural sector.

21.The Youth Employment in Agriculture Programme (YEAP) targets 750, 000 market-oriented young agricultural producers while the $100 million dollars Fund is to provide affordable long-term financing to support the development of small and medium agribusinesses in the country.

22. This is in addition to a N50 billion Farm Mechanization Support Fund set up by the Central Bank to establish 1,200 agricultural equipment-hiring enterprises.

23. Both funds will become fully operational this year. Policies and programmes such as these to boost agricultural production remain topmost on the agenda of this administration.

24. Being very conscious of the inherent perils of our over-reliance on income from crude oil exports for national development, we have focused on accelerating the diversification four economy.

25. The non-oil sector, which has grown by an average of 8% in the last few years, is now a major driver of growth in our economy.

26. The 2015 national budget, which is now before the National Assembly, is targeted at deepening our efforts at becoming a non-oil economy.

27. The budget also includes measures to ensure that the downturn in the price of oil does not affect our development plans and our national economy too adversely. We are adjusting our financial processes to safeguard our economy. We are also taking steps to ensure that the poor and the low and medium income earners do not bear the brunt.

28. In 2015, this administration will continue to lay the foundation for a vibrant economy that attracts significant Foreign Direct Investment and promotes policies that ensure economic stability.

29. We will ensure stability in the value of the Naira by striving to take away speculative behaviours that cause market exchange pressures.

30. We will continue to build and maintain a healthy external reserves position and strengthen fiscal buffers. We will ensure the Naira remains strong, and gives foreign investors the clarity and certainty that they need, to guide future investment decisions.

31. We will continue to improve our payment systems and strengthen risk-based supervision mechanism for Nigerian banks to ensure overall health and stability of the banking system.
32. We are introducing abroad spectrum of financial instruments to boost sector-specific enterprise areas in agriculture, Micro, Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (MSMEs), manufacturing, and oil and gas to enhance our aggregate supply capacity, reduce poverty, promote job creation and increase the general well-being of our people.

33.These efforts and other measures being spearheaded by relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies, are geared to ensure a secure future for Nigeria and create a much more prosperous country, where people live more peaceful and fulfilled lives. Fellow countrymen and women.

34. As we enter an election year, I assure you that our administration will remain fully focused on providing good governance and the delivery of better public services to our people.

35. The coming campaigns and elections will not distract us from our ongoing work to significantly improve the living conditions of our people. And I urge all tiers of government not to be distracted as well.

36. The elections are very important for us as a country. Their successful conclusion will further strengthen our democratic institutions and place our beloved country even more firmly in the comity of truly democratic nations.

37. Given the challenges that have characterized some previous electoral contests in our country, the eyes of the world will certainly be on the conduct and outcome of our fifth post-military rule general elections.

38. I reassure all Nigerians and the international community of our firm commitment to free, fair and credible elections. My commitment to free elections and one man, one vote remains unwavering.

39. Our administration has worked hard in previous elections to prepare all key
stakeholders including the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), security agencies and the electorate optimally, to ensure a progressively improved electoral process in the country under my watch.  We will continue to do so for the coming elections.

40. We will continue to provide adequate funding to INEC and maintain the Commission’s independence and isolate it from any form of interference or meddling in its day-to-day affairs. This shall continue to guarantee its impartiality and ability to conduct more credible and acceptable elections.

41. National security agencies will also be given all necessary support to enhance their ability to ensure that the elections are peaceful and violence-free. The Nigeria Police has already established an Elections Security Planning and Monitoring Unit.

42. I am optimistic that with the cooperation of all law-abiding citizens of the country, our commitment to have a peaceful and violence-free election will be actualized.

43. I will like to say this, once again, to my fellow politicians and political leaders.
None of our political ambitions is worth the blood of any of our countrymen, women and children. The improvement of their lives and living conditions ought to be our primary motive and the driving force of our quest for political power and leadership positions.

44. Let us not promote sectionalism, disunity, intolerance, hate, falsehood or the malicious abuse of political opponents. Whatever we feel or seek, we must have a nation and a people before we can dream of political ambitions. Let us put the nation and the people first.

45. Let us all conduct our electoral campaigns with the highest possible decorum and civility towards political opponents. Let us give INEC the fullest possible support and cooperation it requires to conduct credible and violence-free elections in 2015.

46. After the 2011 general elections, some unpatriotic elements embarked on an orgy of violence, resulting in the destruction of lives and property. That will not be allowed to happen this time around. This government will act decisively against anyone who disrupts the public peace, before, during or after the 2015 general elections.

47. All Nigerians, of voting age, are free to vote based on their convictions. It is our duty to defend and protect that basic right, and let no one be in doubt, we will.

48. Fellow Nigerians, I urge all of you to enter the New Year with renewed zeal and patriotism, to serve our fatherland with love, honesty, faithfulness and hope for a greater tomorrow.

49. As I have always maintained, none of the challenges before us is insurmountable. We must come together as a people and work with single-minded unity of purpose to overcome them.

50. Nigeria is a key country in Africa. We must work together to maintain our strategic position and collaborate with others to move the continent forward. I call for peace in Africa and an end to all conflicts in our continent. I urge all Africans to promote democracy in their respective countries to ensure faster development of the continent and faster economic and political integration.

51. We will continue to pray and offer hands of fellowship and assistance to our fellow Africans suffering from the Ebola Virus Disease. I urge all Nigerians to show compassion and contribute in whatever way we can to help our African brothers and sisters.

52. As we go into this New Year, I salute the indomitable and resilient spirit of our people in Nigeria and wherever they are in the world. Our spirit of enterprise and the doggedness to succeed amongst all odds has been our strength.

53. With our collective prayers and efforts, we will grow our economy and our people will become wealthier. Government will continue with programmes deliberately designed to create more jobs for our youth, to enable them contribute more to the growth and development of our nation.  

54. Let us continue our march to the future, towards the attainment of our collective vision of a strong, united, prosperous and harmonious nation "a secure nation for us and for ourcoming generations.

55. I wish you all a happy and fulfilling 2015.

56. God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

57. Happy New Year, Nigeria!

58. I thank you all.


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The diaspora Nigerians under their umbrella Nigeria in Diaspora Organisation Europe (NIDOE) held its annual general meeting in Rome.
The group paid a courtesy call on the Ambassador of Nigeria to the Holy See at the Chancery. Over 50 members and officials from over 15 countries in Europe were in attendance.
They were received by H.E. Dr. Francis Okeke and staff during which useful discussions on various on-going projects in Nigeria as well as their strategy for the year 2015 were discussed.The Ambassador thanked them for their continuous support and assistance to their country in the areas of affordable housing, health and education.
He assured them of the steady support of Mr. President and enjoined them to remain law-abiding and to redouble their contribution to their host countries as well as the Nation.
The Annual General meeting, which held 8th November, was topped by a Gala Night after successful deliberations. Several plaques were given to many members who had made valuable contributions to the Organisation.
The group paid a courtesy call on 9th November to Francis Cardinal Arinze, the most senior African Cardinal in Rome.
The delegation to Rome was lead by the President Dr. George Maduwuike resident in the UK. He was supported by other members of his newly elected executive including Dr. Bashir (Russia-Vice-President) and Mr. Ikenna Ugwu (Italy-Secretary).
Other prominent guests were Ambassador of Nigeria to France, Amb.
Hakeem Olawale Sulaiman and his Spouse. Nigeria’s Ambassador to Italy, Amb. Eric Tonye Aworabhi co-hosted the deliberations together with his Vatican counterpart.
Also in November, about a dozen Papal Knights from the Diocese of Makurdi attended the weekly Wednesday General audience, to thank the Holy Father Pope Francis for their elevation to the rank of Catholic Knighthood. The group of Knights including a Dame, called at the Embassy of Nigeria to the Holy See where they were received by H.E. Dr. Francis Okeke.
The group led by Sir Mike Jukwe, K.S.S., thanked Mr. President for creating a resident Mission to the Holy See, which assisted them in their spiritual journey to the Vatican. To them it was home away from home.
(See pictures at Gallery)


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The month of October, continues to attract more events for Nigerians in the Vatican State and indeed all Italy.  Schools reopen and with it, the traffic congestion in Rome increases markedly.  The pleasant weather at this time of the year continues to invite visitors.
It is on this background that Nigeria celebrated its 54th Independence celebrations and also acknowledged its centenary as a Nation.  A dinner party at the Westin Excelsior, saw members of the Diplomatic corps and over 150 prominent Nigerians including senior Priests and Religious attending. Key amongst them were the visiting Archbishop of Abuja Archdiocese, John Cardinal Onaiyekan.  Also present at the independence celebrations were their Excellencies, Ambassador Tonye Aworabhi & Mrs. Aworabhi, Dr. Kanayo Nwanze, President IFAD, Dr. Yaya Olaniran, Nigeria’s Permanent Representative IFAD, Madam Angela Bosah, senior citizen visiting Rome from the United Kingdom where she is resident.   The various Deans of the Diplomatic corps for the Vatican State and the African group of Ambassadors were entertained by traditional dances and the Catholic women organization, Casilina, Rome.
Find below pictures taken during the events as well as portions of Mr. Ambassador’s speech on that special day for Nigerians.  
Many Diaspora Nigerians including Presidents of NIDO, Italy, Arch. Emma Adigwe, the Yoruba community elders, Igbo community, Edo and Ijaw communities in Rome were in full attendance.  
The Priests and Religious from Nigeria played very active part in making the evening a resounding success.  They, on their part held their biennial meeting October, 12th at Seminario San Paolo in Rome.  The event was well attended with over 300 nuns, Priests and Seminarians, teaching, working or studying in Italy responding positively to roll call.
Francis Cardinal Arinze, the oldest and most senior Cardinal from Nigeria was Chief celebrant at the Mass commemorating the new academic year for the Pontifical universities where many of our citizens enjoy the assistance of the Holy See in their work.
Also this October, over 200 Bishops arrived Rome for the Pontifical Council meeting on the Family.   This is an extr-ordinary Synod of Bishops from the entire Christian world and preparatory to the  main Synod  on the Family October, 2015.  
Nigerian was represented by the Chairman of the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of Nigeria, His Grace Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos; and it is only mid October.
Find below, pictures of the Events. Happy viewing.
We thank Nigerians affiliated to the Holy See for the recent increase in the registration with the Embassy of Nigeria to the Holy See through its website.  We need urgently the list of ALL our citizens.


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After the ‘’ relative quiet’’ in terms of events in the month of August in the Vatican State, activities have again returned to its brisk State as the Holy Father returns fully to Rome after his important visit to South Korea in August.
The weekly audiences on Wednesday mornings are again in full swing as are private visits by various Heads of State and government.  The impact of the visit of His Excellency, Dr.  Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and his dear wife, Her Excellency, Dame Patience lingers on and has increased critically the number of Pilgrims visiting Rome from Nigeria.
In this regard, various Pilgrim tour groups have called at our fully functioning Embassy of Nigeria to the Holy See making enquiries, courtesy calls and have sometimes arrived at our doors, out of curiosity.

Among these August visitors, were Pilgrims from:  

  • The Archdiocese of Lagos , The Church of the transfiguration, Victoria Garden City.


  • The Chairmen and Secretaries of State’s Pilgrim’s Welfare Board and Federal Commissioners of N.C.P.C. ably led by Mrs. Taurie Adefemi. They were on their pre-visit tour of Pilgrim Sites.   See picture


  • Over 600 Pilgrims from various parts of Nigeria came to the Vatican while returning to Nigeria from the Beatification of Bishop Alvaro Del Portillo of the Opus Dei which event took place in Spain, late September, 2014.   Over 300 of our citizens who attended the Papal audience on October 1 st , 2014 ( Our National Day) came to the Embassy which is strategically positioned 50 meters from St. Peters Basilica, ( the site of the general audience). They were all received by the Ambassador , Dr. Francis  Okeke and all Embassy staff who had remained on duty to ensure our citizens were well looked after.

Find below some pictures celebrating these encounters with our worthy citizens; and it is only the beginning of the Pilgrim season of October through December!
Happy viewing!  


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In commemoration of the twin canonization of Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, donated a statue of now St. John Paul II to the Holy Father on this occasion. The choice of John Paul II is because of the special relationship Nigeria enjoyed with him as the Holy Father.
It will be recalled that St. John Paul II as Pope John Paul II visited Nigeria twice during his tenure. He made the first visit in 1982 and the second one in 1998, during which he Beatified our own Blessed Michael Iwene Tansi. The Nigerian people have a lot of affection for him because of his special interest in our country and the role he played in our national history. It is for this reason that the President decided on behalf of the people of Nigeria to make a donation of a statue in his honour.
The statue was delivered to the Vatican a few days before the event of the twin canonization of 28 April 2014, with a letter from the President to the Holy Father Pope Francis, accompanying the delivery.


The President also sent a high-powered delegation led by the Senate President, Dr. David Mark and other members of the Federal Executive Council including the Chairman of the Catholic Bishops Conference, Most Rev. Ignatius Kaigama, Archbishop of Jos, and Colonel Paul Obi (rtd) former administrator of Bayelsa State who presented the statue on behalf of Mr. President.  

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The pervading hot weather this time of the year in Rome promises to reach an even higher tempo with large troops of tourists and pilgrims arriving the Piazza  of St. Peter in June through August.
A large Nigerian contingent, principally from the Catholic Archdiocese of Ibadan arrived the Eternal City for the receiving of the Pallium from the Holy Father Pope Francis by the Archbishop of Ibadan, His Grace Gabriel ‘Leke Abegunrin.
This event took place 29 th June. Archbishop Abegunrin was an alumnus of the Urbaniana over 25 years ago when he completed his Doctorate in Canon Law with merit.
Accompanying him was the Emeritus Archbishop of Ibadan ecclesiastic province, Felix Alaba Job and various Bishops from Nigeria.
A sizable group of Nigerians living in Italy and beyond were there to felicitate with the Archbishop who was already installed in Ibadan January 2014.
The Embassy of Nigeria to the Holy See wishes the new Archbishop, apostolic blessings and our very best wishes as he steers the affairs of this important diocese.  
See pictures

  
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Fellow Nigerians,

1.   I greet and felicitate with you all, today, as we mark 15 years of uninterrupted democratic governance in our beloved country.
2.  Our dear nation, Nigeria, has certainly come a long way and made notable progress since our first Democracy Day on May 29, 1999 when the military finally relinquished power and handed over to a democratically-elected government, marking the true beginning of a government of the people, by the people, for the people."
3.  Although I have ordered a low-key commemoration of this year’s Democracy Day in deference to the current mood of the nation, there can be no doubt that the past 15 years, the longest period of sustained democratic governance in our country, have been a blessing to us, as a people.
4. As we commemorate 15 years of our Fourth Republic today therefore, I believe that it is fitting that we pay tribute once again to all those who played a part in restoring our nation to the true path of democratic governance, built on the foundations of rule of law and freedom of expression.
5.  As a result of our collective efforts since 1999, democratic governance is now entrenched in our nation and institutions. I wholeheartedly believe that our people are the better for it. The scope of fundamental rights and liberties enjoyed by our people over the past 15 years has been expanded beyond measure.
6.  On my watch, we have witnessed high national economic growth rates, steady improvements and expansion of national infrastructure including airports and roads, the restoration of rail transportation, the efficient implementation of a roadmap for improved power supply, a revolutionary approach to agricultural production, as well as advances in education, sports, youth development, healthcare delivery, housing, water supply and other social services.
7.  In the oil and gas sector, our promotion of a sustainable local content policy, continues to guarantee equity and better opportunities for Nigerian entrepreneurs and skilled personnel.
8. Significant increase in mobile telephone and national broadband penetration, making Information and Communications Technology (ICT) one of the fastest growing sectors of the Nigerian economy.  We have also developed strong financial markets and regulatory institutions. Our banks now have regional and global footprints.
9.  Nigeria has also gained recognition as the largest economy in Africa, the most preferred investment destination in the continent and in terms of returns on investment, the fourth in the world. We are pleased that the world has noticed, as global leaders converged in Abuja early this month for the World Economic Forum in Africa.
10. The event not only witnessed a record attendance, it brought the prospect of an additional flow of investment into the Nigerian economy estimated at over $68 billion over the next few years.
11. In foreign relations, our country has equally done well within this period, by establishing and strengthening strong partnerships with all ECOWAS countries and the rest of the world. This has helped to deepen Nigeria’s leadership role in multilateral institutions including the United Nations.
12. Furthermore, under this administration, we have made consistent progress in improving the standard of elections in our country to ensure that they are ever more credible and truly representative of the people’s free choice. The National Conference we initiated to deliberate and make recommendations on the best ways of resolving our current political and socio-economic challenges is on-going. It is our expectation that its outcomes will help to further consolidate the gains we have made from democracy in the past 15 years, and place our dear nation even more firmly on the path to greatness.

Dear Compatriots,
13. It is a sad fact that as I address you today, all the gains of the past 15 years of democratic governance in our country are threatened by the presence of international terrorism on our shores. Our dear country, Nigeria is facing a new challenge. A war has been unleashed on us. Extremist foreign elements, collaborating with some of our misguided citizens, are focused on an attempt to bring down our country and the democracy and freedom we cherish and celebrate today.
14. The despicable abduction of school girls from Chibok in Borno State has brought to the awareness of the entire world, the heartless brutality of these terrorists who want to instigate a descent into anarchy and balkanize our nation.
15.  In recent years, terrorist attacks have claimed the lives of several of our compatriots, many have been injured or maimed, whole villages and communities have been destroyed and the economy of some of our states is in jeopardy.
16.  There can be no doubt that what we are witnessing in Nigeria today is a manifestation of the same warped and ferocious world view that brought down the Twin Towers in New York, killed innocent persons in Boston and led to the murder of defenceless people in the Southern Russian city of Volgograd. Terrorist activities have brought war and pains to Mali, Somalia, Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
These agents of evil continue to brainwash and incite ignorant young men and women to attack the innocent. We cannot allow this to continue.
17. I welcome the statements of solidarity from patriotic citizens and the global community in support of our efforts to stamp out terrorism. I applaud the understanding that in a democracy, such as we are building, people can have differences while sharing worthy values and standing together in opposition to the scourge of terrorism. Nigeria is the only country we have and we must all work to preserve it for present and future generations.
18. Despite the challenges we face, we must commend our security forces. We must not forget their gallantry and successes in liberating nations and in peacekeeping, from Liberia to Sierra Leone, Congo, Sudan, Mali, Guinea-Bissau and many places in Africa and beyond. Our forces have paid the supreme price in several places at several times.
19. Today, they face a different challenge, an unconventional war by terrorists. They are adjusting and are being equipped to tackle the new menace of terrorism. We must show confidence in their ability. I have no doubt that, with the support of Nigerians, our neighbours and the international community, we will reinforce our defence, free our girls and rid Nigeria of terrorists.
20.  It is now 45 days since the horrifying abduction of the college girls of Chibok. I share the deep pain and anxiety of their parents and guardians and I assure them once again that government will continue to do everything possible to bring our daughters home.
21. I am determined to protect our democracy, our national unity and our political stability, by waging a total war against terrorism. The unity and stability of our country, and the protection of lives and property are non-negotiable. I have instructed our security forces to launch a full-scale operation to put an end to the impunity of terrorists on our soil.
22. I have also authorized the security forces to use any means necessary under the law to ensure that this is done. I assure you that Nigeria will be safe again, and that these thugs will be driven away – it will not happen overnight, but we will spare no effort to achieve this goal.
23. For our citizens who have joined hands with Al Qaeda and international terrorists in the misguided belief that violence can possibly solve their problems, our doors remain open to them for dialogue and reconciliation, if they renounce terrorism and embrace peace.
24. My government, while pursuing security measures, will explore all options, including readiness to accept unconditional renunciation of violence by insurgents, and to ensure their de-radicalization, rehabilitation and re-integration into the broader society.

Dear Compatriots,

25. We must remain united to win the war against terrorism. Christians, Moslems, farmers, fishermen, herdsmen, teachers, lawyers, clergy or clerics, the rich, the poor and Nigerians from all sections of the country must work together with our security agencies and armed forces to overcome the terrorists who now threaten all that we hold dear.
26. The war against terror may be difficult, but the days of peace will come again. Terror is evil; nowhere in history has evil endured forever. The menace of Boko Haram will surely come to an end. I believe that because of your prayers, your courage, hardwork, faith and sacrifice, we will ultimately prevail over the terrorists and all other evil forces.
27. We are a strong, resilient and courageous people.  We will continue to partner with the civilized world, to confront international terrorism and every other challenge that comes our way with patriotic zeal and determination.

Fellow Nigerians,

28. Yes, we have challenges but we will surely overcome. Nigeria is our country. Nigeria is blessed. We will all collectively protect, defend and develop this country for ourselves, and our children.
29.  Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
30. Thank you and God bless Nigeria.


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The author of the above scripts needs little introduction.
John Cardinal Onaiyekan is a Nigerian Cardinal and Archbishop of Abuja.
He is a member of various Pontifical Councils in Rome but is universally acclaimed for his contributions in the world of dialogue between Christians and other religions with particular attention to Christian- Muslim Dialogue in Nigeria.
He is the "Pax Christi", Peace Award Laureate 2012.
Wishing you happy reading of another view of the challenges and the way forward in tackling the insurgency in Nigeria.

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The tragic drama of the abducted secondary school girls of Chibok, Borno State at the hands of Boko Haram has shocked the whole world. This has focused very unsavory global media attention on our nation. It has in particular concentrated much publicity on Boko Haram, a publicity which they have always reveled in but which in this case may have gone beyond what they bargained for and which may now boomerang against them. This "unconscionable crime", to use Mrs Obama’s rather unfamiliar language, has to say the least, cast our government in very bad light. Whether this verdict is deserved or not, the government has to do something visible about the crisis on our hands. And quickly too. This perhaps explains why our government is accepting assistance from various foreign nations, from USA to China, from France to Israel. As a Nigerian, I am saddened and ashamed. But it seems clear that we have reached the stage where we have to swallow our pride and stop bragging and pretending to be what we are not.
In itself, there should be nothing wrong with seeking and accepting foreign intervention, especially since it is now clear that the Boko Haram has international connections.  It is therefore not only a question of "assisting Nigeria". It is also in the interest of the international community to join hands with Nigeria to deal with a dangerous virus that is infecting and attacking the entire international community, starting from our nearest regional neighbours.
So far, we have been hearing much about military action. To the extent that the Boko Haram is killing, abducting and bombing, it has to be effectively and appropriately engaged. But there is a limit to how far we can go with military action alone. One only needs to imagine the awful military dilemma of rescuing 200 girls from the hands of heavily armed terrorists and bring them back to their families, safe and sound. The complexity of the Boko Haram phenomenon therefore calls for coordinated action at different levels and in various areas of attention. The political and socio-economic issues are well within our ability as a nation, if we can only summon the political will to act together across political and ethnic lines to save our nation.
But there is also the religious dimension which in my view has not been given adequate attention. This is where I believe we should welcome with deep gratitude the strong messages of solidarity with our nation and vigorous expressions of condemnation of the Boko Haram by the global Islamic community at the highest level. The Islamic Fiqh Academy, based in Saudi Arabia, has declared:
"This crime and other crimes committed by the likes of these extremist organizations contradict all humanitarian principles and moral values and violate the provisions of the Quran and Sunnah".
The OIC, now called "The Organization of Islamic Cooperation", a body well known to us here in Nigeria, has come out not less forcefully in its condemnation, through its "Independent Human Rights Commission" (IHRC). Their statement issued from its headquarters in Jedda merits a long quotation.
"The IHRC is extremely saddened by the misguided claim of the Boko Haram that the abduction of the girls and threat to sell them off as ‘slaves’ is in conformity with the injunctions of Islam. This is not only a violation of international law and human rights law, but also a gross misrepresentation of Islam, which enjoins its adherents to go to any extent in the pursuit of knowledge. The Commission joins the international community in unequivocally condemning the barbaric act … and urges the leadership of Boko Haram to immediately release the abducted girls to enable them join their families and continue with their education."
With such statements at such high Islamic levels, there is no more room for any Muslim or anybody in Nigeria to suggest any kind of alibi, excuses or justification for the "unconscionable crimes" of Boko Haram.  I believe such powerful statements are also great encouragement to our many Muslims who have been speaking loudly against the terrorists, at times at great risk. We think of the imams who have been hunted down and murdered by Boko Haram for preaching against their demonic activities. It is a good sign that many Nigerian Muslims have been making similar statements. It is time for all of us to call Boko Haram by its proper name, "mindless bigots, misguided persons masquerading as adherents of Islam" – as General Buhari branded them recently.
One may suggest that these global Islamic organizations could go further than issuing statements of condemnation. They could do more to support the efforts of the Nigerian Muslims to discourage and knock out radicalization and all forms of extremism in the Nigerian Muslim community. Could they also reach out to the foreign supporters and inspirers of our terrorists to leave us in peace? What about facilitating dialogue with Boko Haram?
Finally, I believe that we Christians, despite all the hurts that we have suffered, should resist the temptation to turn a deaf ear to what the Muslim world is saying. The Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury are singing the same song of peace as the Muslim leaders. This is significant. Muslims and Christians in Nigeria must find it in their hearts to pick up the chorus. When the girls are back home, and the Boko Haram are disarmed, (I say "when" not "if") there will still be the tedious task of dialogue, reconciliation, mutual forgiveness and peace, for which the force of religion will be most needed. This will demand that religious communities join hands and call on the One God who takes care of us all.  It is then that it may well be that this horrible episode, as President Jonathan believes, would "be the beginning of the end of terror in Nigeria".

May God bless Nigeria, and bring back home our daughters.

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Vatican City is the preferred destination to many Christians from Nigeria especially at this time of the year.
The year 2014 comes even more to prominence with the visit of the President His Excellency Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and the First Lady Dame Patience Jonathan 21 st-22 nd March.
Many Nigerians especially of the Catholic faith are as a result attracted even more readily to spend the Holy Week and Easter in Rome.
The Canonization of the two popes (Pope John XXIII and John-Paul II) on 27 th April has further exacerbated this traffic, which will reach its peak between 25 th-28 th April.
One of the notable and very regular visitor to the Vatican at this time of the year is Lady Vero Onyiuke, wife of the late legal luminary Chief G.C.M. Onyiuke SAN, Q.C.
She has spent time visiting the Vatican over the Easter period for the past 40 years and has never missed coming to the Holy City each year.
Along with Lady Onyiuke, was Chief L.C. Okeke and wife together with other close friends of Lady Onyiuke who were in Rome on pilgrimage.
The Embassy of Nigeria to the Holy See wishes Lady Vero Onyiuke many years of good health and happy visits to the Vatican State as the octogenarian continues to pray for peace and progress in our Country.  See pictures

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The "talk" most of this month in the Holy see (besides events leading into the period of Lent), are several visits from various Heads of Governments and Royalty from many countries.
Nigeria was not left out of these important events as Mr. President, H.E. Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, visits the Vatican State and the Holy See accompanied by his wife, H.E. Dame Patience Jonathan, for Audience with Pope Francis.
He comes with a modest retinue of government officials including the Governors of Akwa-Ibom, H.E. Goodswill Akpabio and wife.
Also in the delegation were the Governor of Benue, H.E. Gabriel Suswan as well as the Former Governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi and his wife.
Mr. President also attended a meeting with the Cardinal Secretary of State, Pietro Parolin, accompanied by the Honourable Minister of State of Foreign Affairs, Prof. Viola Onwuliri. The meeting was cordial and mutually beneficial. Issues of common interests to the Holy See and Nigeria were discusses including Pilgrimage and Security matters.
The long relationship between Nigeria and the Holy See in the field of Health and Education were highlighted.
Also present at the discussion were Mr. John Kennedy Opara of Nigerian Christian Pilgrims Commission as well as Nigeria’s Ambassador to the Holy See, Dr. Francis C. Okeke.
Mr. President along with the 1st Lady of Nigeria Dame Patience Jonathan after praying with members of the entourage and Pilgrims from Nigeria performing the spiritual journey, returned home after a modest lunch with some Priests and Religious from Nigeria studying and working in Rome.
The most Senior Cardinal from Nigeria, Francis Cardinal Arinze (CFR) was also able to meet with Mr. President prior to his audience with the Pontiff.
A section of the Nigerian Community in Rome presented themselves and gave a big welcome to their Excellencies.
Amongst these, were the Ijaw and Ibo communities and cultural groups resident in Rome. The association of Priests and Religious from Nigeria were there to welcome Mr. President and 1 st Lady as well. The "Cortile San Damaso" of the Apostolic Palace, Vatican City, was a bevy of activities as the Vatican State rolled out the red carpet to receive Mr. President.
An entirely fruitful and colourful visit for Mr. President  and Nigeria even if very brief.
The ambassador and wife were there at the airport along with Embassy Staff to wish the visitors farewell as they continued their journey to Hague (Netherlands) for yet another summit on nuclear security.       See pictures

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The Embassy of Nigeria to the Holy See has been a constant port of call for many of our citizens visiting Rome.
The list is almost that of who is who in Nigeria. I shall not bother you with official delegations from the Presidency of which there has been three within the past year; for the Consistory of our John Cardinal Onaiyekan (November 2012), the inauguration of Pope Francis (March 2013) and the 50th Wedding Anniversary of Chief Sonny Iwedike Odogwu and the subsequent 70th birthday celebrations of his dear wife Chief (Mrs.) Theresa Odogwu.
Other private visits by:
° H.E. Prof. (Mrs.) Viola Onwuliri
° Supervisory Minister for Foreign Affairs
° Archbishop Nicholas Okoh Chairman NCPC and Primate Anglican Communion
° John Kennedy Opara, Executive Director NCPC
° His Eminence Francis Cardinal Arinze, Emeritus Prefect for the Congregation of Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments
° Bishop Kukah of Sokoto Diocese
° Archbishop A. Obinna of Owerri Archdiocese

° Emmanuel Kure, Pastor of the Throne Room Ministry

° John Cardinal Onaiyekan, Archbishop of Abuja
° Mrs. Onyeabo-Obi (Wife of Senator Onyeabo-Obi)
° Sr. Veronica Openibo of the Congregation of the Holy Child Jesus
° Amb. Sonny and Justice (Mrs.) Okobi
° Hon. Sokonte Davis, Member of the Federal Legislative House Nigeria
° Engr. Chukwuma Nwandugo, Commissioner of Works, Ebonyi State
° Dr. Thomas Asuquo John (former Managing Director NCPC)
° Prince Bisi Olatilo, Chairman BOS Communication, Lagos
° Bishop Emmnauel Chukwuma, Bishop of Enugu – Anglican Communion
° Sr. Irene Anyalebechi and Sr. Monica Adigwe, Immaculate Heart Sisters and many others.
° Several private pilgrimage groups from Nigeria have also called at our Embassy, which is a very short distance from St. Peter ‘s Basilica (at Borgo Santo Spirito, 16).
The embassy has also received many visitors from several Embassies accredited to the Holy See over the 14 months of its presence in the Holy See.

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The 53rd edition of Nigeria’s National Day (Independence Anniversary) was held at Hotel Roma Cavalieri on 5th October, being a weekend. It was attended by prominent personalities and notable citizens of our Country.
Among them were:
- Francis Cardinal Arinze
- John Cardinal Onaiyekan

- Ambassador of Nigeria to Italy, H.E. Mr. Eric Tonye Aworabhi and Wife
- Deputy  Head of Mission, Mrs. Martina Gereng-Sen

- Pastor Dr. Olusola Akinyemi of Emmaus School – Italy
- Dr. & Mrs. Kanayo F. Nwanze, President FAO Rome
- Dr. Yaya Olaniran, Ambassador at IFAD Rome
- just to name a few.
Many citizens from all walks of life including the world of business and medical profession, living in Rome and the environs were also in attendance. There was a heavy presence of Ambassadors accredited to the Holy See including the African Group of Ambassadors (from Democratic Republic of Congo, Senegal, Benin Republic, Morocco, Egypt, Ghana, Ivory Coast),  Ambassadors of the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany and many other countries in Europe were in full attendance.
The Holy See was represented by the Chief of Protocol, Msgr. José Avelino Bettencourt, as well as other members of the Curia.
The Ambassador and Wife, Prof. (Mrs.) Theodora Okeke received all the guests as is the tradition, and the Ambassador delivered an Independence message.
The distinguished guests many of which included priests and nuns from Nigeria as well as Venerable Boardman of the Anglican Commmunion and Nigerian pastors working with him were also present.
They were entertained by a live band and various cultural groups from Nigeria.
See pictures

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The Chancery of the Nigeria’s Mission to the Holy See, was formally opened 10th September 2013, by the Minister of Foreign Affairs H.E. Ambassador Olugbenga Ashiru (MFR).
The then Honorable Minister was accompanied by Ambassador Eric Tonye Aworabhi, Ambassador of Nigeria to Italy and several under-secretaries of State and Directors of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Commenting on the new Embassy, the Minister registered his satisfaction that much had been achieved within a short period of 1 year.
He assured the Embassy of the constant support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the steady interests of Mr. President, H.E. Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (GCFR) in further widening the excellent relations between Nigeria and the Holy See.
The Ambassador of Nigeria to the Holy See Dr. Francis C. Okeke informed the visiting Minister of the Embassy’s work and interests in assisting the NCPC (Nigerian Christian Pilgrims Commission) in ensuring a hitch free pilgrimage to Rome and all of Italy.
The busy representative functions of the Ambassador as well as the constant interests on the welfare of Nigerian citizens in the Vatican including students at the various Catholic and other Christian Institutions were discussed.
The opening ceremony was attended by a large number of Nigerian priests, nuns and other Religious from various Christian denominations as well as Nigerians from all works of life living in Rome at a small reception held in the Embassy on 11th December 2013.

Important dates to remember:

1) Nigeria’s National Day (1st October)
2)  Inauguration of Pope Francis (19th March 2013)
3)  Blessed Iwene Tansi day (20th January)
4) Nigeria’s Centenary Anniversary Celebrations 1914-2014 (begins
27th of February)
5) Presentation of Letters of Credence from Mr. President Excellency Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (GCFR) by Ambassador Dr.  Francis C. Okeke to the Holy Father Pope Bendict XVI on 5th November 2012 thereby formally beginning Nigeria’s Resident Mission to the Holy See.
6) Formal opening of Nigeria’s Mission to the Holy See by Ambassador Olugbenga Ashiru MFR (10th September 2013)


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Interview

Following the meeting between the Holy Father, Pope Francis, and the entire Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, the Ambassador of Nigeria Dr. Francis C. Okeke gave an interview to Vatican Radio on the same day, 13th January 2014.
Find below the interview









The youth group of the Catholic Secretariat from Abuja visited Italy on pilgrimage and presented itself at the Wednesday audience 19th February 2014. The youths were led by several priests who were supported by nuns resident in Rome during the audience.
The group paid a courtesy call on the Ambassador of Nigeria to the Holy See, Dr. Francis C. Okeke, who was there to receive them with members of his staff. The visitors relayed the good wishes of the organisation to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (GCFR), for opening an Embassy to the Holy See which has made them feel at home in the course of their pilgrimage. The group return to Nigeria next week.
Find above and below pictures.



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13th January 2014

Greetings of friendship and constant interests in the affairs of our Countries.
The Holy Father shakes the hand of Nigeria's Ambassador to the Holy See at the meeting of the entire Diplomatic Corps with Pope Francis.


 
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