Jet Stanley Madu
Recently, the Justice Development and Peace Commission (JDPC), an outstation of St. Matthew Catholic Church, Amukoko, Lagos, organised a one-day peace summit.
The parish priest, Reverend Father Emmanuel S. Likoko, SPS, said the event was intended to get people of the community and its environs to better appreciate themselves.
He said the forum was designed to provoke participants to start thinking and acting in positive ways, Stressing the need for a peaceful society, where justice would reign, he charged residents to be aware of their rights and duties.
He also decried the level of injustice and inequality in the violence-riddled community of Amukoko, with its infrastructural decay. “When I tell my friends that I live at Amukoko, they wouldn’t want to visit me. Many things are wrong here, but we want to see how we can make our situation more acceptable,” he said.
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Likoko said collective effort was needed to make the area more habitable.
“We cannot uproot ourselves and transplant elsewhere. But we can make it a better place, more habitable and friendly,” he said.
Likoko noted that the church takes practical steps to improve the lives of people of Amukoko community with initiatives such as the establishment of a model school to provide primary and secondary education at a very subsidised cost:
“It is the cheapest private school in this community.”
He added that the pupils were encouraged to develop at their own pace.
“We do not write exams for our students. That way, they can compete favourably with other children from better environs on an equal level,” he said.
Likoko also pointed out that the church had a vocational school in the parish focused on young girls, youths and teenage mothers and equipped them with various skills. The Kenyan-born priest said the vocational school does not cater to Catholics alone, but accommodates people of other faiths and doctrines.
“Whether you believe in God or you don’t, we create a level field where everyone can come and learn. We graduate over 50 girls ever year,” he said.
The priest claimed that the church has offered scholarships to a number of students studying in tertiary institutions within and outside Lagos. Other efforts, he said, included ridding the area of street urchins and empowering them through occasional meetings and workshops:
“The last time we met with them, many of them signified interest to operate motorbikes and tricycles (Keke NAPEP). We are in the process of empowering them.”
The summit, had the theme “Know Your Right, Defend Your Right, Pursue Your Right.”
The organising committee chairman, Mr. Elesoay Michael, said it was aimed at addressing some societal ills plaguing
Amukoko community. In attendance were Christians from other denominations as well as Muslims.
Guest speakers were drawn from the police, local government authorities as well as religious and community leaders,
including Nigeria’s first Olympic gold medallist, Assistant Superintendent of Police, Force Headquarters, Anti-Human
Trafficking, Mrs. Chioma Ajunwa.
Her lecture, which centred on child abuse, decried the rising spate of child abuse even in religious houses, schools and homes where parents abuse children, particularly, house helps. She called for actions to ensure the trend is reduced to “a very minimal level.”
Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Ifelodun Local Council Development Area, Apostle Elijah Olabani, commended the Catholic Church for organising the summit. He described the parish priest as a true man of God.
Olabani said the local church had earlier in the year organised a one-day intercessory prayer and fasting session for the release of Leah Sharibu. He called on the federal government to help effect her release.
The church JDPC coordinator, Comrade Justin Nwanze, explained that the JDPC was concerned with social justice such as releasing people unjustly detained or imprisoned and providing free legal aid.
He informed the audience that, early in the year, the JDPC had organised a programme where the populace were educated on the need to register, obtain their PVCs and to vote wisely during the 2019 general election.
While warning them against selling their votes, he said:
“When you collect 10 kobo from a politician, that 10 kobo is your right for the period he is in power. And if you sell your conscience with any amount or anything, you can’t get it back. And you have sold your voice.”