How the church is fighting slum stereotypes – Priest

Anglican Church in Nigeria used to illustrate the story
Church in Nigeria used to illustrate the story

The Parish Priest of St Matthew Catholic Church, Amukoko, Lagos, Emmanuel Likoko, has said that educating slum dwellers about their rights is a way of helping them live better and become good citizens.

Mr Likoko spoke in Lagos, Saturday, during a summit ‘Know Your Right, Defend Your Right, and Pursue Your Right’ organised by the Justice, Development and Peace Commission of the church.

“The theme is not something we want to politicise, just something to provoke the minds of our people on how well they can live with one another and how they can improve on their own personal existence as citizens of this country and also as members of the church,” said Mr Likoko, a Kenyan, who is also the JDPC Chaplain for Apapa Deanery.

“We want to help people understand what is the best way for them to live as members of the community and what I want to achieve is, you know, we live in a community when you look around, you notice that when you’re talking about justice and peace, basically the environment alone speaks for itself.

“Many people are born here, many are used to the way things are done in this environment, so it is very difficult for them to understand that they need to move to another step in life.”

Amukoko, a sprawling slum reclaimed from marshland, is situated in Ifelodun local council.

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It is one of the many Lagos communities bedevilled by youth cultism, gang violence, and police brutality.

Mr Likoko said his church is trying to help the people understand that there is more to life than what they are seeing.

“The number one challenge here is that many people live in ignorance, when you talk about their rights. When you talk about the systems of life that they need to work on, you’ll find that many of them are confused.

“When you look at this environment there are so many things that people by themselves can do to improve their lifestyle. You don’t need the government to tell you that you should not park a vehicle on the road and leave it there for one week. You don’t need the government to come and tell you that to levy taxes on one another, as we have with these Agbero boys, you don’t need somebody to tell you that that is wrong.

“You don’t need government to tell you that killing another fellow person as an act of revenge is wrong. So we just want to bring them back to reality, for them to accept that they themselves are just as equal citizens as anybody else.

When you look at the general lifestyle, there is so much inequality. Anytime any of my friends want to visit me and they ask ‘where do you stay?’ and you say you live in Amukoko, they will not come. If you call Uber to come to Amukoko, they will not come.

“There is something wrong somewhere, so we want to see how we can make our situation more acceptable, you know we cannot uproot ourselves but we can make the place where we stay a better place.”

Nigeria’s Olympic gold medallist, Chioma Ajunwa, who was a guest at the summit said child abuse, particularly in slum communities, was gradually becoming a norm.

She disagreed with the claim that parents and guardians of victims fail to report to the police because they are not sure of justice.

“It’s not that even if they report police will not do anything,” said Ms Ajunwa, an assistant commissioner of police at the Anti-Human Trafficking Section, Force Criminal Investigation Department in Lagos.

“The issue we always have is from the parents. Depending on what area a child is being abused. Is it sexual abuse? The parents, majority of them don’t like to open up. It’s either by the husband, the brother to the husband… people in the family.

“Or even the friends they are living in the same yard with. They will tell you if we do this, either I’m exposing my family or I’m exposing my child or after this, I will not be in good relationship with the person any longer. All these things are ignorance, forgetting about the rights of the child.

“That is why when they come to the police station and police want to go to the logical conclusion of the matter, you see the parents coming to beg on and on and on, they make nonsense of the case.”

Justin Nwanze, the JDPC Coordinator at the church, said the aim of the summit was to “inform the people of certain things they don’t know.”

“We here in this area we have been trying to educate people on the area they should go in order not to fall victim because our work here is to take care of those that are in prison, unlawfully, to release them,” Mr Nwanze said.

“And by the special grace of God, we are praying that people should not be detained unlawfully. And that’s why we are calling people to come and listen so that they will know the areas, things they should do as a Nigerian that they will not fall victims.”

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