Imo State has been in the public domain for a number of eccentric topics in recent times. Earlier, it was the Supreme Court’s landmark judgment, which upheld a woman’s right to father’s inheritance disregarding the Igbo age-long traditions. Today, the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Law No 12, 2020 has become another concern as it allegedly promises to ordain women Catholic priests and crown women ‘Eze in Igboland.’ This has elicited strong criticisms from professionals, groups and even as Catholic faithful are not willing to submit to female priests except Reverend Sisters. CHIJIOKE IREMEKA reports
• ‘Imprisons preachers, parents for correcting children under verbal, psychological abuse clause’
• Legalizes abortion, same sex marriage; destroys Igbo traditions, cultures –Prof Njemanze
• It’s an attack on Catholic church especially, says Prolifers
• Many Nigerians are illiterates, always fight the right, spare the wrong –Rights activist
• I don’t know the basis I should submit to a female priest
Pro-Life groups and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) across the country have warned that the VAPP Law 12 of 2012, which was revised for 2020, is targeted at destruction of the agelong Christian religious traditions in Imo State.
They cautioned that the Law has the aptitude of tearing down the Christian religious traditions if allowed to subsist in this arrangement.
Sunday Telegraph learnt that a woman seeking ordination as a Catholic Priest, if refused by the Seminary due to the long held Church’s tradition of not ordaining women as Catholic Priests and Bishops, a Judge may cite the VAPP Law on ‘succession rights’ as economic abuse and mandate the Seminary to accept her, regardless of the Male-Priesthood of Jesus Christ, if such matter is brought before a court.
The VAPP Law sponsored by Hon. Uju Onwudiwe (Igolo Njaba), therefore, came under Prolifers and CSOs’ hammer for being poorly conceptualised with an alleged agenda to destroy the Christian religious foundation, family and erode Igbo culture as well as traditions, which was part of the reasons the 2012 version was repealed.
More so, legal practitioners and groups instrumental to its repeal said the 2020 adaptation of the Law is a clone of the repealed one, saying that it has the propensity to outlaw all-men Catholic Seminaries, ordain women as priests, legalise abortion, same-sex marriage; proscribe the use of the Bible in schools; crown women as traditional Ezes (Kings) in Imo communities; imprison parents and preachers for moral education of children under the verbal or psychological abuse costume.
According to the Pro-Life group, an association of professionals, including medical doctors, priests, lawyers, and activists, among others, the current law was designed to augment the Imo Law No. 7 of 2007 for continued destruction of the family and killing of the unborn Imo children.
They alleged that the embattled Law is not well intended as it doesn’t ban the proliferation of ‘Imo Baby Factories,’ where babies are allegedly killed and their organs taken for export to Western capitalist countries to provide organs for their infants with heart defects, kidney defects, liver and lung insufficiency.
This is also coming as His Grace Most Rev. AJV Obinna, the Catholic Archbishop of Owerri Archdiocese, had cautioned the lawmakers on the laws being promulgated in the state, saying that the Church will not entertain any indecent law that would destroy the moral fibres of the people.
He was quoted as saying: “The lawmakers should bear it in mind that any law that is inimical to the traditional Catholic Christian faith, morals and standard as well as laws promoting abortion of lives, will not be tolerated and will be resisted.”
Speaking further on this agenda of destroying Catholic values and Igbo norms, the Chairman, Global Prolife Alliance (GPA), Prince (Dr.) Chidi Njemanze, from Owerri ruling family, alleged that the Anti-Life movements in Nigeria are suspicious of the Catholic Church’s opposition to abortion and targeted to decapitate the Church by destruction of the Holy Priesthood.
He told Sunday Telegraph that the priesthood of the Catholic Church is made exclusive for men because of the priesthood of Jesus Christ, whereby the priest stands in the ‘person’ of Jesus Christ to celebrate the Holy Mass and hence, speaks in the first person, saying that the priest hears confessions and absolves from sins in the first person and celebrates all the sacraments in the person of Jesus Christ.
In ordaining His successors, he noted, Jesus Christ chose 12 men as the apostles, though there were many women who worked around him, yet He handed the Church over to the male apostles to ordain their successors in the same manner.
According to Prof. Philip Njemanze, who is also the Managing Director, Chidicon Medical Centre, Owerri, Imo State, the law is a direct attack on Christian religious traditions particularly aimed at ruining the Catholic traditions, saying that with the position of this Law, it’s a punishable offence to refuse any woman ordination as a priest or bishop if she desires it.
The professor of medicine noted that in this light, if the Seminary refuses to ordain such a woman, the Pope as the Head of the Church will have to apologise and the Provost will go to jail for three years or be fined N500, 000 or both; yet the seminary would still admit the lady or be closed down.
He explained that Catholic priesthood is called Apostolic Succession through the Bishops of the Church but the Anti-Life people, wary of the Catholic Church’s opposition to abortion, targeted to decapitate the Church by destruction of the Holy Priesthood.
He noted that this is the reason they termed the Section 22(1) that deals with ordination of female priests ‘succession right’ under ‘economic abuse’ to include Apostolic Succession that will enable them to destroy the Catholic Priesthood and hence the Church.
Their point is that women are entitled to the same Apostolic Succession as men and there is no exemption given to religions. But “On the other hand, the Church celebrates women as the role models of motherhood of Mary and Virginity of Mary in Reverend Sisters.
The Church sees the role of men and women in the Church as complimentary but not the same. “The Anti-life group wants to use the VAPP law and other laws to legislate sameness in opposition to Gender Complementarity that the church holds as the doctrine.
They want to use legislative activism to destroy the foundation of the Catholic Church doctrinal teaching on ‘Men and Women He created them.”
More so, the Association of Catholic Medical Practitioners of Nigeria (ACMPN) Imo State chapter, lent its voice in condemning this Law, saying that it promotes moral decadence, tries to imprison preachers and parents under the section that deals with ‘Emotional, verbal and psychological abuse.’
ACMPN insisted that the definition of ‘abuse’ as ‘verbal’ was made broad to include normal parental scolding of children, preaching against ‘sins’ of adultery, abortion, and fornication among others, as is customary in Nigerian religious society, saying that preaching by Priests, Pastors, Evangelists, Bishops, Traditional heads that condemn actions contrary to our religion and culture, are also banned by this law. “This means curtailing the freedom of religion, and restricts the Church and tradi
tional institutions from correcting the evils of society such as the sins of abortion, contraception, fornication, and adultery among others,” said a statement by ACMPN. It continued: “There are no limitations or exemptions made by the VAPP Law No. 12, 2020, on what could be considered as ‘abuse’. Therefore, all cultural manners of correction of children and young people would be considered as ‘abuse’ liable to fine and/or imprisonment.
“Perpetrators, if condemned by preachers on the pulpit, could take offence even when not specifically directed at them but at the entire congregation. The VAPP Law allows anyone to claim ‘psychological’ distress in response to ‘verbal abuse’ that they consider violates ‘the integrity of a female or male human being.’
“Daughters would go against mothers and sons against fathers in courts, with parents facing jail sentences as prescribed by VAPP Law which would create a breakdown of ethics and morals, customs, traditional practices, and religious norms that hold the fabric of Imo society.
“Children growing up in Imo State society that is compliant to VAPP Law would have no cultural, religious, ethical and moral restrictions and no traditional upbringing for which the Igbo are known as a people. The impending chaos would lead ultimately to the disintegration of our entire socio-political system.
“Total disintegration of Igbo Society is the goal of the racist foreign sponsors of the VAPP Law under a deceptive title: Violence Against Persons Prohibition Law,’ which deals on ‘Emotional, verbal and psychological abuse’ must be revised to means a pattern of degrading or humiliating conduct towards any person, including repeated insults, ridicule or name calling; repeated threats to cause emotional pain;
“Or the repeated exhibition of obsessive possessiveness, which is of such nature as to constitute a serious invasion of such person’s privacy, liberty, integrity or security but does not include normal admonishment of children or persons to correct wrongdoings in private or public, in accordance with Igbo customs, religious norms or accepted good social practices.”
Again, some lawyers who stood their grounds until the Law was repealed in 2012, said by implication, the Section 22(1) of the Imo bill no. 12, intends to crown women ‘Eze’ in Imo communities by including ‘succession rights,’ which would mean that if the first girl in the family of an ‘Eze’ is omitted in the line of succession, in accordance with Igbo customs and tradition, the ‘Eze’ or the village kingmakers would go to jail for four years.
One of such lawyers and human rights activist, Barr Sunny Ekwowusi, said they fought and defeated the Law after its promulgation due to a number of hidden agendas in the law, saying, they will do the same again.
He said: “The last time, we, group of Prolife lawyers visited the Bishop of Owerri Diocese, educated him on this attack on our religion and culture, and we were able to join forces with other stakeholders and ended the at tack.
“The problem is that African culture and life are under serious attack. The western world has been sponsoring a number of bills and policies that are clandestinely targeting at destroying Africa’s strong morals, tradition and heritage.
“What is the need for legalising abortion in Imo State? Crowing a woman Catholic priest and ‘Eze’ if not targeted at destroying Africans and their culture? We don’t need all these weird typescripts of the West. We need to train our people to understand these onslaughts in our societies. A number of Nigerians are illiterate and always fight the right and spare the wrong.
“Foreign bodies use aids and grants to Africa with the sole aim of bringing about rejection of our culture and tradition under the guise of development. We need to rise up against this.”
He, therefore, recommended that this section would rather omit ‘succession right’ and defines ‘economic abuse,’ as forced financial dependence; denial of inheritance rights in a manner that violates the Fundamental Rights of the Person(s) as stipulated by the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and generally accepted good social practices of Igbo traditional norms.
“The Imo State Law No. 12 is sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation. Among the aims for the international sponsorship of the law are to provide aborted tissues and fetal parts for the Western Pharmaceutical Companies for drug testing and cosmetics industry,” he alleged.
It was further alleged that the Foundation provides human Ovarian Eggs through Invitro-Feritilisation (IVF) Clinics to supply over 100 million eggs needed for the Tissue Cloning Industry, especially the majority of the Stem Cell Tissue Cloning Industry are owned by the same Western billionaire who sponsors these laws.
According to Section 40(1), page 38, made available to Sunday Telegraph, the Section encourages abortion throughout the nine months of pregnancy if applied under the pretense of emotional discomfort experienced by the woman.
Section 40(1) reads in part: “In addition to the rights guarantee under chapter IV of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, or any other International human rights instruments to which Nigeria is a party, every victim of violence as defined in Section 1 of this law, is entitled to the following rights:
“(i) Every woman shall have the right to enjoy reproductive rights including the right to medical abortion in cases of sexual assault, rape, incest and where the continued pregnancy endangers the physical, mental, psychological or emotional health of the mother.”
Sequel to this, Njemanze lamented that in the Law purported for Prohibition of Violence Against Persons, there is no section on definition of a person, saying that the poor conceptualisation in this Law is shown in the main subject of the law that the ‘person’ is not defined; a person is characterised by ‘life,’ wondering what in this law protects that ‘sanctity of life’ on which violence is inflicted? He gave a detailed medical definition of a ‘person’ who is the main object of this law, saying,
“The Law does not protect ‘life’ from its very scientific medical beginning from ‘conception to natural death.’ This law must state that any laws that propose ‘violence or death’ against a ‘person’ not in accordance with the provisions of Chapter IV of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, is hereby repealed, rendered null and void and of no effect.
“This Law should specifically state that the Imo State Law No. 7 2007 in (Section 18 a-f), which legalises abortion, contraception, assisted reproduction and human ovarian egg-donation,’ is hereby, rendered null and void and of no effect. “The Act may be cited as the `Imo State of Nigeria Violence Against Persons (Sanctity of Human Life Act)’ Law No. 12 of 2020.
Be it enacted by the House of Assembly of Imo State of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the House of Assembly Imo State declares that.
“(A) the right to life guaranteed by the Constitution is vested in each human being, and is the paramount and most fundamental right of a person; and that the life of each human being begins with fertilisation, cloning, or its functional equivalent, irrespective of sex, health, function or disability, defect, stage of biological development.
“Or condition of dependency, at which time every human being shall have all the legal and constitutional attributes and privileges of personhood; and the House of Assembly affirms that the Imo State Government has the authority to protect the lives of all human beings residing in its respective jurisdictions.
“For purposes of this Act, the terms
human',human being’ or ‘person’ includes each and every member of the species Homo sapiens at all stages of life, beginning with the earliest stage of development, created by the process of fertilisation, cloning, or its functional equivalent.”
Speaking further, the Prolifer, Owerri Archdiocese, Priest, Fr. Justine said the law must know that nobody has the right to terminate any life given by God, saying that other appendages on traditions and the right of a woman to priesthood are to ridicule the people’s tradition.
He said: “If we are living for justice, then it will start with the less privileged and the foetus are the less privileged. They are human beings and they didn’t put themselves there. You cannot say that it is a product of accidents because no pregnancy is an accident.
“There are no limitations or exemptions made by Bill No. 12, on what could be considered as ‘abuse’. Therefore, all cultural manners of correction of children and young people would be considered as ‘abuse’ liable to fine and/or imprisonment.
“The impending chaos would lead ultimately to the disintegration of our entire socio-political system. You cannot just come and change the traditions of the people without consulting with the people. It will cause a lot of problems. You are destroying the people.”
ACMPN added that pages 26 and 27 of the Law 12 legitimises homosexuality by defining domestic relationship as a relationship between any person and a perpetrator of violence constituted in any of the ways that they live or have lived together in a relationship in the nature of marriage, although they are not or were not married to each other or married to each other, including marriage according to any law, custom or religion.
ACMPN insisted that marriage should be defined as a union of a man and a woman established between themselves by their own free will as a partnership for the whole of life according to an order established by law, faith or custom, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring.
Reacting to ordination of a woman as a Catholic priest, Dr. Chidume Okolie, said it would be disastrous as many people would not want to sit under the officiating of such a priest. He said: “In Catholicism, there are norms that must be obeyed and others that shouldn’t come in.
We have Reverend Sisters. Let them do their work and let the men do theirs. Christ is a man and that is the reason men are chosen for priesthood. I will not submit to such a female priest if anything like that comes into play. I have not known such.
There’s no basis for that equality in the thing of the Lord.” However, these are the states in Nigeria that have passed the VAPP Law banning the holy bible and Koran, FCT (May 2015); Kaduna (1st December 2018); Anambra (March 2018); Oyo (2016); Benue; Ebonyi (May 2018); Edo (June 2021); Ekiti; Enugu (May 8, 2019); Delta (October 2020); Osun; Ogun (2021); Cross River; Lagos (May 18, 2007); Plateau; Bauchi (July 29, 2020; Akwa Ibom (June 2020); Abia (October 2020); Kwara (October 2020); Yobe (December 2020); Nassarawa (January 6, 2021); Jigawa (February 17, 2021); Kogi (March 23, 2021); Bayelsa (April 2021); Rivers (April 2021); Ondo (June 2021); Sokoto (July 2021); Adamawa (March 2021); and Imo (July 2021).