Most Rev. Raphael Opoko, is the Methodist Archbishop of Umuahia and the Chairman, for Social and International affair under the Umbrella of World Methodist Council.
He also served as the Secretary of Conference for a period of 10 years prior to His promotion and translation to Umuahia, Abia State Capital.
Most Rev. Opoko is a voice not only prominent in Nigeria but also outside the shore of Nigeria. One fascinating thing about him is his ability and interest in making simple, life for the physically challenged persons.
It will amaze you to see him, talk and relate with the blinds, dumbs, deaf, cripples, maimed, etc. He is passionate about it.
The Man who can be likened to Goliath of the Christian Bible is huge in body size as well as in thought. His leadership vis a viz his know-how is second to know.
His Grace, Most Rev. Opoko Yesterday, spoke on novel pandemic ravaging the world and its long-term effects. Besides what everyone will easily come to terms with, as regards economic collapse, socio-political fatigue, the effect will also cause a shortage of food supply which will result in social unrest with increased barbaric activities, crime, and possibly mortality rates.
According to the Archbishop, “Nigeria’s food production capacity cannot cater to her teeming population. This will result in scarcity of food items and inflation. Already, the cost of food items has skyrocketed.”
His Grace said the first round of the two weeks’ lockdown has illustrated that the Federal and States governments palliatives and social intervention programmes are not sustainable.
The impact of the lockdown occasioned by COVID-19 has shown a strain of potential civil unrest. The social media and the pages of our newspapers papers are agog with reports of young people constituting themselves into gangs to rob for food and money.
Others hijack vehicles loaded with foodstuffs even bakery vans have not been spared as loaves of bread are forcefully taken. He continued
He commended the Federal and State government palliatives and social intervention programmes are highly commendable and appreciated.
He also took a dig at the one of the Federal Government, claiming that it was fraught with criticisms of unjust distribution and lack of transparency in ways they are being handled.
The Chairman for World Methodist Social and International affair opined that the impact of this lockdown may not be short term. We must be creative to put immediate and long term prone measures that will make us not to have a ‘Hunger’ pandemic.
The Way Forward:
Archbishop Opoko, being a man of social class, considerate and passionate of the vulnerable, advised the Government in the way forward.
According to him, “The Government should go beyond these short term relief and promote agricultural enterprise to ensure food security. Hence, our leaders must wake up to their responsibility by urgently delving into Agricultural activities.”
We must evolve a constructive and strategic engagement of the young people in varied Agricultural endeavours. He added
The government must be intentional, to provide programmes that will provide opportunities to turn the aggressive energies of the young people to farming, to ensure food supplies and food security within the next six months, and after.
The government need to provide seedlings, cassava stems, fertilizers; create access roads to farms; and if possible, give allowances to these young people to motivate them the more. He explained
His Grace called to Church to Inclusiveness of the aftermath of COVID -19, by limelight the role of the Church. In his word, “The Role of the Church in Fighting Hunger and Poverty at this critical time and ensuring sustainable livelihood cannot be overemphasized.
Even though the church’s engagement in pure religion is highly commendable, the Church, in addition, should embark on a vigorous campaign, encouraging subsistence farming towards food security.”
After consideration of the global and national challenges, this pandemic may occasion food insecurity, Most Rev. Raphael Opoko suggested that all levels of government, through the relevant agencies, should increase food production by:
1. Prioritizing farming as an essential service.
2. Helping farmers in the clearing, preparation, and expansion of farmlands.
3. Subsidizing farm inputs like seedlings, Agro-Chemicals etc.
4. Providing practical access roads to the farms to enable farmers to cart away their produce.
5. Facilitating campaigns for people to engage in an agricultural enterprise.
6. Encourage social distancing and promote cautionary measures to prevent further spread of COVID-19 in these endeavours by providing face masks etc.
His view, this action will make people to be gainfully employed, especially at this idle period.
These initiatives would facilitate food security, improve livelihoods, increase savings, and reduce inflation, crime, and mortality rates.
While other Individuals may be praying for a quick relaxation of the Lockdown, The Archbishop advised that the government should not hurriedly relax the lockdown, especially at the borders or state entry points, until COVID-19 is significantly curtailed.
Lockdown is very essential. People must be alive to eat. It is imperative if we must be spared of this catastrophic pandemic. The State borders must be tightly locked-down. Even town to town travelling should be halted.
Read Also: Control prevention of COVID-19
The second provision of palliatives is imperative to give time to engage in the constructive and strategic engagement of the citizen’s in farming.
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