Nigeria’s perennial insecurity is driving the country to become a failed state, the head of the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria has warned.
The church is marking its 175th anniversary in Nigeria. At a media briefing in Abuja Friday, the prelate of the church, Nzie Nsi Ekeh, lamented the impact of insurgency, banditry, kidnappings, herders’ attacks, robbery, and cultism on the country.
Mr Ekeh said the government needs to do more to curtail these vices in the build-up to the 2023 elections in the interest of the country.
“As a church that existed long before Nigeria emerged as a nation; played, and still playing a lot of significant positive roles for the emergence of the nation, it was deeply concerned by issues bordering on insecurity, hunger, 2023 elections, e-transmission of election results, Nigeria’s unity and youth,” he said.
“The fact that we can no longer sleep with our two eyes closed in most parts of Nigeria is no more news. The level of banditry, kidnappings and herdsmen attacks, robbery, cult crises, and the likes has been driving Nigeria steadily into a failed state.
“While we appreciate the sacrifices our security agencies are making to keep us safe and some recent gains they have made in the battle to keep Nigeria safe, we want to encourage the government to get more aggressive in the fight, otherwise 2023 elections will be a mirage,” he warned.
He said the church was in support of the electronic transmission of election results since it believed it would go a long way to mitigating electoral malpractices.
Urging the National Assembly to review its decision not to approve the use of e-transmission of results in the 2023 election, Ekeh asked the President not to sign the new electoral bill until the e-transmission clause was included.
“We pray our President will write his name in the sands of time, as one of those leaders in our nation’s history who significantly improved our electoral process,” Mr Ekeh said.
Special prayers for the nation
To continue interceding in prayers for the safety of those held captive by bandits and kidnappers in different parts of the country, the prelate said 30 days of special prayers have been declared from August 15 for their release.
He said hunger and starvation are staring in the faces of most Nigerians as a result of the combined impact of the COVID–19 pandemic, insecurity and the country’s weak currency.
Considering the way food prices have skyrocketed in recent times, Mr Ekeh urged the government to declare an emergency programme to increase food supply in the country, as most Nigerians are finding it increasingly difficult to feed.
On Nigeria’s unity, the prelate restated the Presbyterian Church’s belief in the unity of the country, urging the government to take seriously the current spate of separatist agitations in sections of the nation in recent times.
These situations, he said, should not be taken for granted or approached with force, suggesting rather a constructive engagement with all the agitators.
“Without equity, justice, inclusiveness, and fair play, unity is difficult. We must not pretend to be a united country, we must truly be united or agree to go our separate ways to avoid an implosion. Conflict is a part of human life. We cannot completely eliminate conflict. But we can manage it,” he said.
On the vision of the church going forward, the prelate said the church was determined to increase its presence in all parts of the country in line with its declaration of 2020–2030 as a decade of “Aggressive Church Planting, Discipleship, and Church Growth”.
“We are using these celebrations to reflect on where we are coming from and where we are going to. We are conscious of the fact that we are not where we ought to be and we are determined to redouble our efforts trusting in the sovereign grace of God.
“We are currently focusing on building our internal capacities to position the church for the anticipated growth regime. Our partnerships with other Presbyterian and Reformed families globally and particularly in Africa are also being given a renewed vigour,” he said.
History of Presbyterian Church in Nigeria
The Presbyterian Church arrived in Nigeria on April 10, 1846, following the invitation of two Kings from the ancient Efik Kingdom, King Eyamba V and King Eyo Honesty II.
Their invitation resulted in a team of missionaries, led by Reverend Hope Masterton Waddell, being sponsored by the Church of Scotland to Calabar to establish the Presbyterian Churches at Creek Town and Duke Town.
In 1858, the Presbytery of Biafra was formed. In 1921, the Synod of Biafra was formed. By 1945, the Church was constituted as the Presbyterian Church of Biafra. And in 1952, the church became the Presbyterian Church of Eastern Nigeria.
On June 16, 1960, in anticipation of the newly independent Nigerian nation, the name of the church was changed to The Presbyterian Church of Nigeria, with the Synod as its highest court or ruling ecclesiastical organ.
By 1987, the church was constituted into two regional Synods and the General Assembly was inaugurated as the highest court or ruling body of the church.
Today, apart from its presence in all the states in Nigeria, the Presbyterian Church has grown into 10 Regional Synods across Nigeria and extends to Benin Republic, Togo, and Burkina-Faso.
The impact of the church has been felt through the noble work of one of the Presbyterian missionaries to then Eastern Nigeria, Mary Mitchell Slessor, particularly ending the practice of killing twins.
The church also made significant contributions to nation-building through the establishment of schools, colleges, hospitals, farms, leper colonies, and strategic human capital development programmes.
Other modest achievements of the church include being instrumental to the setting up of the first printing press in Calabar and the first published material (a Bible Lesson) on August 21, 1846, and the pioneering work of Bible translation in Nigeria, with the translation of the Holy Bible into Efik language in 1862.
Some of the institutions established by the church include the Hope Waddell Training Institution, Calabar in 1895, which produced eminent Nigerians like a former president, Nnamdi Azikiwe, and Akanu Ibiam, a former governor of the defunct Eastern Region.
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