The five- day standing committee of the Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, ended abruptly in Awka Wednesday following the sit-at-home threat by the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB.
The meeting, attended by 170 Bishops from all the Dioceses in the country, was the highest decision-making gathering of the church and would have ended on Friday.
According to the IPOB threat, all markets, banks and other institutions would be shut and movement restricted in the entire South East geo-political zone.
There were visible signs Wedenesday in the state of security beef up in various parts of the state.
Primate of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, Most Reverend Nicolas Okoh, who expressed concern over the IPOB order, had earlier pleaded with the group to allow the Bishops leave the state, arguing that the order would adversely affect their departure if carried out.
He said: “IPOB threatened to shut down markets and other institutions and restrict movement in the entire South East. We are not delving into the reasons for their agitation, but we are asking them to wait until we leave Awka on Friday.
“ If they go ahead to carry out that order, we may be trapped in Anambra as the Niger Bridge is the only exit route from Anambra State for most of the Bishops. So, people should help us beg them to allow us to go.”
Though Wednesday was the official opening day for the meeting, the Bishops decided to leave the state immediately so as not to be caught in the web of IPOB planned Friday programme.
One of the Bishops from the Northern part of the country said “We are human and so we had to put our heads together and that is why we decided to cut short the conference.
“That is the most ideal thing to do in the circumstance. I will leave this evening and most others will do same. Those who cannot make it today (yesterday) will do so early tomorrow. There is no need waiting; it doesn’t make sense.”
Following the decision, the Bishops hurriedly issued a statement appealing to the Niger Delta militants to stop the bombing of oil facilities in their region in the interest of the country.
They also appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to convene a roundtable meeting between government and the agitators in order to address their grievances.
They, however, reminded the militants that shutting down the economy of the country would not do anybody any good.
Delivering his address at the meeting earlier, the Primate appealed to the federal government to disarm the Fulani herdsmen who, he noted, had murdered the peace of the country.
His address read in part: “The Standing Committee wishes to make a passionate appeal to the militants to spare our economy and stop the bombing of oil facilities.
“Shutting down the economy is like pulling down the roofs with all of us inside; nobody will escape the negative impact. We equally call on those who can reach them to join in this appeal for the greater good of all.
“The presence of herdsmen in our countryside is not new, they have always been around. What is, however, new are the unprovoked attacks on their host communities and sometimes saying that cow is missing.
“They lay ambush and waylay people going to their farms, rape women and destroy farmlands; and their victims are at their mercy because they are armed.
“We call on the federal government to immediately disarm these people to return Nigeria to a state of peace.”
“Our roads are in bad condition all across the country. Since our major means of transport is road, we call on the federal government to give the required attention to the roads to reduce the inconveniences, accidents and deaths.
“Airlines operating in the country are going through difficult times, some have grounded operations. No doubt, we need them.
“We therefore call on the federal government to expedite action on floating the national carrier or rejuvenate the private ones to enable them perform better.
“Further in this area is the persistent scarcity of aviation fuel which has troubled the country, disrupted many programmes, including those of government and private.
“We call on government to solve the problem of aviation fuel permanently so that people can move about their businesses with less difficulty within the country.”
Okoh commended Governor Willie Obiano for promoting religious harmony in the state, as well as prompt payment of workers’ salaries at a time many states were unable to do so.
He also congratulated the governor and the people of the state on the 25th anniversary of the creation of the state, assuring that the bond between the church and the state government would continue to grow stronger.
“I thank the governor because he always identifies with us. The religious climate in Anambra is now tension -free. He does not discriminate in his appointments and we are grateful to him.
“We heard that he is one of the few governors that pay salaries and we say, please don’t relent because the church depends on the generosity of the members for the execution of its projects”, the Primate further said.