Most Rev. Ignatius Kaigama, the Archbishop of Abuja Catholic Archdiocese, has urged the Federal Government to strictly sanction anyone who diverts palliatives aimed at cushioning the effects of the lockdown due to COVID-19.
Kaigama, who gave the advice in an interview with the New Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja, said that some people often use emergencies and crises to enrich themselves.
“We use situations of calamity to enrich ourselves, anybody who tampers with palliatives, relief materials provided for the vulnerable and the poor is committing a criminal offence and should be dealt with as a criminal.
“Those who are charged with the responsibility of distributing relief materials should be honest and do it as unto their God; they should know that it is about saving humanity.
“It is about dignity of human person; don’t keep anything aside for yourselves whether it is money or materials or foodstuff.
“So, I really feel bad, bitter and sad when I see or hear that people are taking what should be given to the people and diverting it for other purposes, selling or hoarding.
“I think we should be patriotic; that you are a Nigerian, you should do the best to help people, that is how we can have an integrated nation, a nation of one people and one nation,” Kaigama said.
According to him, religious leaders should be part of COVID-19 Task Force since they are directly connected with the people.
“I believe strongly that they should be part of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, not only the task force but other groups like Internally Displaced People (IDPs), the Boko Harm crisis and herdsmen interventions.
“For instance, as a religious leader, as a Catholic Bishop and a Catholic priest, I am on ground, I have network of parishes that are scattered all over the country.
“I know where these people are, they come to us, we see them crying, we see them dying and we can claim that we have greater affinity at the grassroots.
“The work of government is governance and they may not have the opportunity to meet these people at the grassroots level.
“If there are emergencies and crises like this, I think they should consider the expertise and the experience that the religious leaders have.
“Like in the Catholic church, we have a great structure of Justice, Development and Peace,’’ he said.
The archbishop, however, said the church would be available for collaboration with the Federal Government to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and to alleviate the sufferings of the people.
“We (Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria) are available for collaboration with the government. That is what we told the Secretary to Government of the Federal who is the Chairman of the Task Force on COVID-19.
“We are willing to collaborate with the government; we even offered our hospital facilities, if they need to use our hospitals to remedy the situation.
“We even offered our personnel- qualified medical doctors in this area; we made all these offers and we are willing to work with them for anything.
“This is about our people and we must do everything to make sure that our people live. If our people die, where do we have followers and members of the congregation?
“We are one with government, that is why they should not see us as competitors, but they should see us as being ready to help them. They should help us to help our people,’’ he said.