Nigerian Government a Failure, Bishops Say

Church Leaders Severely Criticize Obasanjo

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ABUJA, Nigeria, MAR. 11, 2001 ( Nigeria´s Catholic bishops issued a sweeping condemnation of President Olusegun Obasanjo´s government, saying it had failed to meet the expectations of the people since military dictatorship ended two years ago, Reuters reported.

«It is sad to say that the government is not living up to our hopes and expectations,´´ the bishops said in a communiqué at the end of a four-day annual conference. «We see many members of the political class, at federal, state and local government levels looking not to the needs — even the most basic needs — of the people, but spending time and money looking only to how they can be re-elected two years from now.»

«We see government at all levels dissipating scarce resources on expensive projects that do not directly improve the lives of the people,´´ the bishops said.

Obasanjo´s government has come under mounting criticism from a despondent population struggling to cope with the crushing hardships of daily life, ranging from lack of gasoline in the oil-producing country to widespread power outages.

But this was the sharpest criticism of Obasanjo from the influential bishops, whose weighty voice encouraged pro-democracy campaigners who battled military dictators.

Nigerians welcomed the return of democracy after 15 years of corrupt military rule but have generally been disillusioned with Obasanjo´s failure to lead the economy out of prolonged stagnation. Capacity utilization by industries struggling with energy problems remains stuck at around 30%, dashing any hopes of job creation for more than a million unemployed youths.

Prices for Nigeria´s mainstay oil exports have roughly trebled since Obasanjo took office, but many Nigerians say there is no tangible evidence of how the windfall has been used.

Obasanjo blames Nigeria´s problems largely on rampant corruption during military rule. He has pleaded with Nigerians for time to first tackle graft in public life.

The bishops repeated their condemnation of the imposition of Shariah, Islamic law, in parts of the largely Muslim north, saying it was «grossly irresponsible and unacceptable.´´ Hundreds of people died in the north last year in Muslim-Christian fighting over Shariah, which non-Muslims say is unconstitutional in a secular state.

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