By Douglas LeBlanc
The Anglican Church of Nigeria’s archbishop has chosen a cautious political distance from a coup d’état in the adjacent nation of Niger, recommended that Nigeria join the economic alliance known as BRICS, and agreed to change the governance of congregations the church has launched in the United States.
Archbishop Henry Ndukuba spoke about these matters in a primatial address of nearly two hours during the church’s 14th General Synod. The synod met in the southeastern city of Nnewi on September 12-19, and the archbishop spoke on its second day.
Soldiers in Niger announced the coup on July 28 after detaining President Mohamed Bazoum for a full day. Niger has been an ally to the United States, partly by welcoming drone bases used for counter-terrorism attacks. It has experienced four coups since gaining independence from France in 1960.
The archbishop called coups in West and Central Africa a “cause for concern,” adding: “Nigeria should not be involved in any military armed intervention in Niger. Niger is an extension of northwestern Nigeria because, historically, a good part of Niger is under the Sokoto Caliphate [1806-1906]. Any military intervention in Niger will stir the feelings and emotions of Muslims, and this will aggravate the already bad security situation in Nigeria. There must be a diplomatic solution and negotiated settlement to the political impasse in Niger.”
In remarks that reflect a growing distrust between the West and African nations, especially on theological and political issues involving sexuality, the archbishop endorsed Nigeria negotiating for a place within BRICS, a coalition consisting of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.
“Our government must not allow the United States of America as well as the European Union to use Nigeria to do their dirty job in Niger,” he said. “Instead of pursuing the war against the military junta in Niger, Nigeria should negotiate to be a member of BRICS — the emerging new economic bloc. This may be a good alternative to the dominance of America, U.K., and Europe. But more so, it will open new economic frontiers for Nigeria and ensure our non-aligned posture as a country.”
Ndukuba’s announcement about the Nigerian church’s congregations in the United States will have the most immediate and obvious effect. It is scheduled to take effect in February 2024. A synod resolution referred to “dissolving” two dioceses created by the Nigerian church: the Diocese of the West, formerly led by Bishop Felix Orji, and the Diocese of the Trinity, which is based in Indianapolis.
But it will then “redesignate” the two former dioceses as mission areas, and “all the congregations and clergy of the dioceses shall henceforth be under the missions.” The Diocese of the Trinity lists five regional groupings in the United States, which are under three bishops: Dr. Olukayode Adebogun, Dr. Martyn Anabogu, and Dr. Augustine Unuigbe.
Bishop Orji, who had left the Anglican Church in North America to work within the Nigerian church’s structure, returned to the ACNA. What was the Anglican Diocese of the West’s website now belongs to the Anglican Diocese of All Nations, which is Bishop Orji’s ministry within the ACNA.
The dissolving and redesignation of the two dioceses should help reduce tensions between the ACNA and the Nigerian church.
The Nigerian church has designated the Rt. Rev. Nathan Kanu, Bishop of Aba Ngwa North since 2009, as supervising bishop of its parishes in the United States. He was first consecrated as a suffragan bishop of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, which later became the Church of Nigeria North American Mission.