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Kukah Catholic bishop decries lack of citizens' engagement in policy making debates

He quoted Nobel laureate Amartya Sen as stressing the importance of public discussions as a vehicle for social change and economic progress.

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Bishop Matthew Kukah, the current Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, has identified the lack of citizens' engagement in debates and involvement in public policy making as one of the challenges confronting Nigeria's democracy.

Kukah said this while briefing journalists on `Fixing Nigeria Initiative’, an initiative of the Kukah Centre, on Thursday in Abuja.

``The importance of robust debates cannot be over-emphasised in a democracy, if free and fair elections mark the basic validation of democratic mandates.

``Citizens' involvement in public policy making is the oxygen for democratic governance.''

He quoted Nobel laureate Amartya Sen as stressing the importance of public discussions as a vehicle for social change and economic progress.

The bishop said that Nigerians should exercise the freedom of expression as provided for in the constitution at any given time, since the country is practicing what he called ``representative democracy''.

``We are running a representative democracy; people should be free to express themselves.

``If anybody has a problem you can report to your community as we have representatives from various communities under the system we are running.

``We are in a country where too many people have found themselves in power and we have depended too much on the political class.

``This is the only country where too many ill-equipped and unprepared people have stumbled their way into power,’’ Kukah said.

Commenting on President Muhammadu Buhari's health, he urged all Nigerians to pray for him and other sick people nationwide, stressing that it is one of the responsibilities of all citizens of the country.

Kukah said it was worrisome that the president’s health status had been a subject of speculation, politics and fun.

``As a priest, all I can say is that I have done what I need to do; mainly to pray for my president an pray for the sick and needy.

``We do that all the time but I do not think that the health of any Nigerian should be the subject of politics or speculation.

``It is also something I find troubling; I think the responsibility we have is to pray for our president and pray for the victims that have any form of ailment,’’ Kukah said.

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