The Catholic Bishops' Conference (CBCN) has advised President Muhammadu Buhari to resign from office over the failure of his administration to provide security of lives and properties.
The CBCN made the call in a statement issued in the wake of Tuesday's murder of two Catholic priests and 15 parishioners by Fulani herdsmen in Mbalom, Benue. Jointly signed by Most Reverend Augustine Akubeze and Most Reverend Camillus Umoh, CBCN President and Secretary respectively, the statement said for over two years, the Bishops have consistently asked President to Buhari to re-look the configuration of the country's security agencies, which it said are deliberately placed in the hands of the adherents of only one religion.
"On February 8 this year, when we paid the President a courtesy call, we raised alarm over the security of the nation and the spate of violence perpetrated with impunity by people who have neither respect for the value of human life nor regard for the laws of our country, urging him to take the most drastic steps to stem the tide of this evil in our land," said CBCN.
Since then, added the CBCN, the bloodletting and destruction of homes as well as farmlands have risen in intensity and brutality.
The Bishops argued that the murder of the two priests, Fathers Joseph Gor and Felix Tyolaha, along with their parishioners, was carefully planned because it was carried out during an early morning Mass.
"This wicked act cannot be said to be a revenge attack (as is often claimed). Indeed/ we have just discovered that on January 3 this year, Fr Gor tweeted: 'we are living in fear. The Fulanis are still around here in Mbalom. They refuse to go. They still go grazing around. No weapons to defend ourselves.' Their desperate cries for security and help went unheeded by those who should have heard them "said the CBCN.
It stated that the priests could have fled, but stayed back in Mbalom as their vocation demanded. The Bishops wondered why victims of herdsmen attacks are being advised to defend themselves and with what weapons. They also wondered why the Federal Government, which has the responsibility of providing security, is accusing proponents of self-defence of inciting victims to take laws into their hands.
“How can the Federal Government stand back while its security agencies deliberately turn a blind eye to the cries and wails of helpless and armless citizens who remain sitting ducks in their homes, farms, highway and now, even in their sacred places of worship?
"Now, our churches have been desecrated and our people murdered on their altars. "Today, we Christians feel violated and betrayed in a nation that we have all continued to sacrifice and pray for. We collectively feel abandoned and betrayed," the Bishops said.
They stated that they are currently in Rome on n official visit to Pope and other agencies of the Catholic Church and they are sure that the matter will come up for discussion.
The Bishops stated that they at a loss as to what excuse to offer on the grim developments in Nigeria. They warned that the country has burnt within inches of explosion and the situation needs to be arrested before it becomes a conflagration.
"We are sad and fear that the clock is ticking. The bomb must be defused quickly before it explodes.
"Since the President, who appointed the heads of the nation's security agencies has refused to call them to order, even in the face of the chaos and barbarity into which our country has been plunged, we are left with no choice but to conclude that they are acting a script that he approves of," said the Bishops.
They equally said if the President is unable to keep the country safe, he not keep our country safe, and then he should no longer continue in office.
"It is clear to the nation that he has failed in his primary duty of protecting the lives of the Nigerian citizens. "Whether this failure is due to inability to perform or lack of political will, it is time for him to choose the part of honour and consider stepping aside to save the nation from total collapse," declared the Bishops.
They called on Nigerians to stand for their fundamental right to life and security. Similarly, they called on the government to encourage and empower the country's to secure themselves and their environments.
The Bishops opposed calls to disarm people who own legally procured weapons for self-defence.
"These are not normal times since those we pay to protect us have failed to do their duty. Nigeria can return to normal times if we put our heads together with sincerity, reasoned the Bishops.