Most Nigerians living below poverty line, says Catholic Bishop

Stephen Olufemi Oni, Ilorin

The Bishop, Catholic Diocese of Ilorin, Most Reverend Anselm Pendo Lawani, has decried the pain and groaning many Nigerians are currently going through due to high inflation and high cost of living, lamenting that the greater percentage of the populace is living below the poverty line amid super abundance of human and natural resources the nation is blessed with.

The Catholic Bishop spoke on Tuesday in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, during a press conference to mark the 2024 Democracy Day.

He added: “Many are living in
squalor and slums, unable to have three square meal a day. Incessant increase in the pump price
of petrol, occasioned by the subsidy removal from petroleum products last year, has continued to
impact other sectors adversely.

“Prices of services and goods in the markets, including agricultural
commodities, keep soaring in geometric progression. The situation is indeed gruesome and painful even as government at different levels continue to grapple with some recovery initiatives for the nation’s economy.

“It is unfortunate that the palliative measures being distributed by government have not significantly mitigated the effect of the subsidy removal policy. We appeal therefore that government should
do more to bring succour to the impoverished citizens.”

On the ongoing minimum wage talk between the government and the Organised Labour, Most Rev’d Lawani said the position of the Church is that living wage should be paid the workers, adding that it should be a wage that they can take to the market and return home smiling, not one that they would come back groaning.

While urging citizens to pay their taxes promptly to enable government to deliver dividends of democracy to them, the cleric appealed to the government
not to impose unnecessary taxes that would be burdensome and overbearing for individuals and corporate organisations.

He said: “At the moment, it appears that those engaged in businesses and production ventures are
reported to be heavily burdened with taxes of all kinds. The small businesses are highly troubled
by it because it can lead to their insolvency. They need be allowed to grow without tax burden as there were reported cases of double taxation in certain areas. This needs to be checked.

“Government can equally introduce tax holiday, tax moratoria and zero-tariff regimes or provide
financial support for this category of entrepreneurs, so that they can grow sustainably productive.”

Noting that the country is bedeviled
with various security challenges, including terrorism, insurgency, kidnapping, inter communal clashes, farmers/herders’ clashes, armed robbery, and banditry, Most Rev’d Lawani lauded the
Kwara State Government for the various measures taken to address security problems facing the
state, sayimg they are yielding positive results.

To stem the tide of insecurity in the country, the Bishop stressed the need for more to be done in the areas of intelligence gathering and surveillance, saying intelligence gathering is very significant in national security.

He said: “Citizens too must support security operatives by volunteering
valuable information that are useful for preventive, rescuing and restorative purposes. It is our
belief that workable approach that can better enhance security requires collaboration among
government agencies, traditional and community leaders as well as other stakeholders including
the Church.

“Collaborative efforts on this will facilitate and promote sharing of information and experience towards suppressing potential security threats.”

He commended the Kwara State government for maintaining harmonious and peaceful coexistence in the State, while urging both the government and the governed to continue to uphold the virtues of honesty, integrity, truth, fairness and justice in the affairs of the State and the community where everyone lives.

He said: “We appeal to the government to continually set up
structures for the promotion of peaceful coexistence among all peoples. As the Church makes effort to promote moral teaching to the children through to adulthood, the State should work assiduously to guarantee the inalienable rights of the citizens. According to the
Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Right to Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion is assured. This means the Right to Assemble and Worship is guaranteed.”

The cleric lauded the giant strides of the state government in the area of infrastructure, saying this is an
area that the State government is making positive impact.

He said: “The present administration efforts need to be highly commended. However, it has
been observed that the infrastructural facilities, especially the constructed roads, are unevenly
spread. On this note therefore, we appeal to the Kwara State government to ensure that all nooks and crannies of the State enjoy fair distribution of the social amenities.”



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