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Children hungry despite oil wealth in Nigeria

THERE is no peace for Nigeria. In the north of the country the conflict with the Islamic terror group Boko Haram is worsening, the people in the south are increasingly the victims of environmental pollution and social injustice, the ignorance of their rulers, economic mismanagement and corruption.

Bishop Hyacinth Egbebo, who has headed the apostolic vicariate of Bomadi in the Niger Delta since 2009, described the horrid situation.

“The government does not care about the people, only about itself,” he said.

The population is largely excluded from the opening up of the rich oil reserves in the south of Nigeria. Instead they bear the burden of the unrestrained exploitation of resources.

Bishop Egbebo said there were few fish in the rivers of the Niger Delta.

“The cause of the drastic decline is the severe pollution of the delta due to oil extraction as well as overfishing,” he said. “There are too many nets.”

As a result, fishing as a traditional means of livelihood, is disappearing. Bishop Egbebo said to secure an income the people tried to obtain crude oil, process the raw material into petrol and sell it, although the Government tried to prevent this.

“The conditions of life in the vicariate are very, very poor,” he said. “Children die of malnutrition, the quality of the drinking water is poor. There is a lack of everything, of hospitals, schools, and good moral training and education.”

Bishop Egbebo said three million people lived in the area of the apostolic vicariate, among them 30,000 Catholics. The majority of the population belongs to traditional religions as well as to Pentecostal churches.

“There are forms of syncretism and simple preaching. Those who do not achieve wealth are in league with the Devil,” Bishop Egbebo said. “Even the closest of relatives are accused. This fosters hatred among the people, not love. But we should even love our enemies. This is the theology that we must preach. Only love will win.”

The apostolic vicariate has 35 priests. For pastoral care in the 25 parishes the priests and other Church representatives are reliant on vehicles, and especially on boats. But there is a shortage of both.

Bishop Egbebo nevertheless plans to establish more parishes as quickly as possible, and build schools and further medical care facilities. The vicariate runs a small hospital with 20 beds.

“The people trust the Church. We can do a great deal to improve their situation,” he said. “We lack means, but we will continue to try.”

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