By Margaret Tyam
Bishops of the Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja have pledged to work with relevant stakeholders to ensure free, credible and transparent general elections in 2023.
The commitment is contained in a communiqué jointly signed by Most Rev. Ignatius Kaigama, the Archbishop of Abuja and Very Rev. Fr. Sam Tumba, after the 3rd General assembly of the Archdiocese.
In the communique issued on Saturday in Abuja, the bishops enjoined Parishes, families, Church societies and groups to dedicate special moments to pray for a hitch-free election.
“We call on Catholics and indeed all Nigerian citizens to be consciously and actively involved in the electoral processes at all levels.
“Voter registration, collection of Permanent Voters Card, casting votes on election days with a firm and clear conscience to elect credible leaders who will bring about the true dividends of democracy”, they said.
The bishops commended President Muhammadu Buhari for signing the Electoral Act into law to enhance the sanctity of the electoral process.
“We task the Independent National Electoral Commission to ensure political fairness and transparency, to consolidate the trust reposed in them by Nigerians.
“Parishes and Catholic institutions within our Archdiocese are encouraged to arrange and organize voter awareness programmes, seminars and workshops guided by the Justice, Development and Peace Commission, to better equip our people for greater political responsibility.
“We remain open and willing to collaborate with relevant government agencies, electoral bodies and security operatives to ensure peaceful and credible election processes in the coming year,” the communique added.
The bishops cautioned politicians not to regard the election as a ‘do or die’ affair, adding that they must also refrain from money politics, manipulative and divisive practices along ethnic, social and religious lines to win elections.
“Even though we decry the hard economic situations in the nation, we strongly discourage all Catholics and especially our youths from lending themselves as easy recruits for political thuggery and other criminal activities to enthrone selfish and incompetent aspirants into electoral offices.
“We discourage and condemn any form of vote buying or selling and other electoral malpractices during the elections,” the bishops said.
The bishops advised catholic politicians from all political parties within the Archdiocese to participate in Church activities, so as to be better known by the faithful.
They called on all people of goodwill to cooperate with security agencies to root out criminal elements within communities.
The bishops, however, urged security agents to remain professional in discharging their duties and resist any attempt to be used to intimidate the people by corrupt politicians.
The communique called on Catholics across the country to match work with prayer, for peaceful electioneering process.
They called for sustained prayers for the country, adding: “Nigerians should take courage and be of ardent hope, for the storms will soon be over.”