Nigeria in crisis: the key challenges facing Nigerian Christians
t the Global South Conference in Cairo in October, Anglican Primates were encouraged to address and engage with the challenges to God’s truth and justice in their own provinces and not only in the West. The Primate of All Nigeria, Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, gave this interview about the challenges facing his church
The Economic Situation
“The economic situation [in Nigeria] is getting tougher by the day. The value of our Naira is down, so much so that 1 US dollar is worth 500 Naira. [This represents a drop of about 50 per cent in the value of the Naira since April 2016].
People cannot eat; school fees and house rents cannot easily be paid. Many are living in debt. Those who have children abroad will have to withdraw them. If you have to attend to these basic needs, your generosity to the church will be affected.
We are introducing austerity budgets believing that in time to come this will be overcome. It is not going to be easy. People are really groaning.
The Anglican Communion crisis
Whatever is happening in the Anglican World affects us and our ministry directly. There are people promoting a homosexual lifestyle and same-sex marriage all around the world. When we do social or evangelistic ministry in rural areas we are stigmatized. We live in a competitive religious environment. Other denominations and ministries try to put the Anglican Church down.
We try as much as we can to explain as you cannot really say that you are not an Anglican. But one wonders how much and how many people are really listening to our explanation .
We have a high level of insecurity, both in the North and the South, In the North we have Boko Haram. The Diocese of Damaturu (in the very Northeast of Nigeria Ed) has completely disappeared. We have just translated the bishop there to the Diocese of Zaria He will continue his ministry there until we are able to resolve the issue in Damaturu, The Dioceses of Maidugiri [Northwest] and Yola [on the eastern border] are operating in a skeleton form. They have been badly affected by Boko Haram, as has Kano.
In the South, Niger Delta militants are contending for more share in the Niger Delta revenue. They are suffering ecologically and say that the Government is not giving them due attention. The Niger Delta is an Anglican stronghold and so it is a big challenge to us.
The Fulani herdsmen are killing people in the countryside. They are cattle-rearers. They were the friends of the people and previously did not disturb people. But now they carry AK 47s, shoot, kill, rape, and commit brigandage. They have no discipline of weapon-handling. It is terrible for such people to carry sophisticated weapons. The individual farmers in the rural areas cannot easily go to their farms. The women who form the bulk of the labour force in the rural areas cannot easily move about. These people are harassing them.
We have called on the government to disarm the Fulani herdsman. The law of the country says nobody is authorized to bear arms. But here people are bearing arms and no one is talking to them. They are using them to hold people hostage. It is really affecting the normal life of society, our church and evangelism as we cannot move about freely.
Another group in the South East is the movement for the sovereign in the State of Biafra. The children of the civil war between 1967 and 1970 have grown and are asking for independence. They say that they have no space in the Nigerian state and are not being given due recognition. The struggle is very intense. They disrupt activities. In our last standing committee meeting we could not finish because they threatened to demonstrate all over the Eastern region and that would affect people. So we closed one day early.
We are pleading with Government to try and see how much dialogue it can do with them. If it is all about marginalization there should be a solution. The Government of the Federal Republic is insisting there must be one Nigeria so If we are going to build unity, what they are asking for should not be difficult to meet. Everybody should have a foothold in the central government.
We are pleading with all the authorities concerned to try to show understanding so that the effect on the people will be minimal.