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Nigeria on time bomb, Cardinal Onaiyekan, Professor Jega, General Agwai, Bugaje, others, warn Buhari, State Govs

Prominent Northern Nigerians operating under the name, Nigerian Working Group on Peace-building and Governance (NWGPG) have warned President Muhammadu Buhari and the nation’s State Governors that Nigeria is heading for a collapse.

They also warn that immediate dialogue must be initiated to tackle the looming danger as they listed insecurity and poverty as some the major sources of threat to the country.

Full text of their warning reads:

Introduction

Nigeria, like the rest of the world is battling the coronavirus pandemic. However, citizens in Nigeria are facing double the suffering because they also have to contend with rising insecurity and violence across the country.

The Nigerian government must immediately address the rising insecurity, if it is to succeed in the fight against the pandemic. A recent USIP-commissioned survey in Nigeria found new linkages between COVID19, instability, and conflict. In particular, the survey found that victims of recent violence are less likely to trust the government’s coronavirus response measures compared to those who have not experienced violence.

Following a series of consultations with a diverse group of stakeholders and policymakers between May and July, the Nigeria Working Group on Peacebuilding and Governance – a group of Nigerian civic and thought leaders offers its key observations and recommendations on how the Nigerian government could strengthen its efforts to manage the coronavirus pandemic by addressing the rising insecurity across the country.

Observations

In our federal system, Nigeria’s state and local governments are the closest to the people. However, increasing insecurity across the country raises questions about the ability of the country’s security architecture to manage the multiple security challenges at the state and local levels. Kidnapping for ransom is an acute concern across Nigeria. The northeast is witnessing a resurgence in Boko Haram activity, and thousands of people are internally displaced by banditry across rural communities in the northwest.

Criminality in rural areas further complicates the situation by undermining food security, as many farmers have been unable to go to their farms for months for fear of losing their lives.

The government has been incapable of assuring Nigerians that it cares about our predicament. Numerous conspiracy theories about the causes of the violence continue circulate, without any reassuring counter narratives coming from the government.

Although citizens also have a role to play in responding to the rising insecurity, many have lost faith in public officials and security agencies. Several communities have resorted to taking up arms to protect their lives and property from marauding criminals, while security agencies look on overwhelmed. Meanwhile, these same security agencies appear more focused on disarming the communities while the criminals are left with their weapons.

Our country is rapidly approaching a tipping point. Enough is Enough. The time for Action is NOW.

Recommendations

Initiate a Dialogue Process Immediately: A process of dialogue to address the multiple acts of violence from inter-communal and ethno-religious conflicts must be initiated immediately at the state and national levels. There must be a serious attempt to address insecurity and growing mistrust between citizens. The trust deficit between citizens and the governments must be narrowed if our country is to survive this season of violence.

The dialogue process must be collective, inclusive, genuine, and results-oriented in order to start rebuilding the trust necessary to restore peace. The National Council of State can initiate the dialogue process at the national level. The Nigeria Governor’s Forum – the umbrella body of the 36 state governors – must be the anchor that takes the dialogue process to the grassroots.

The National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP) – a federal government initiative launched in 2018 in collaboration with the state governments to develop the livestock sector, and stem violent conflicts between farmers and herders is an entry point in finding a pathway to peace.

End Impunity: Criminality and violent confrontations between farming and herding communities have claimed thousands of lives and deepened ethnic, religious, and regional polarization, and yet few perpetrators have been prosecuted. Constitutionally, state governors are the chief security officers in their states and therefore should take the lead in ensuring that perpetrators of violent crimes in their states are held accountable.

The federal government should order the re-investigation of all recent major incidents of farmer-herder violence, and working closely with the state governments, should also fast-track the judicial processes of individuals or organizations found to have participated, sponsored or been complicit in the violence. The lack of prosecution of the perpetrators of these violent crimes continues to erode trust between citizens and government.

Prioritize the effectiveness of our security agencies: A dialogue process cannot bear fruit if those who are found guilty of committing or instigating violence are not prosecuted, and if the security situation in the country does not begin to improve. There is a growing public consensus that the current leadership of our security agencies have failed woefully, and that our Commander-in-Chief has so far refused to act. This cannot continue.

Mr. President, you must show more concern and do what is necessary to improve the effectiveness of our security agencies, even if it means replacing the current leadership of our security agencies.

Stop paying lip service to police reform: The recent government announcement about the take-off of the new community policing initiative is commendable, however, many similar previous government initiatives in the past have produced few tangible results. The government should use these new discussions about community policing to demonstrate a sincere commitment towards building an inclusive policing framework that will begin to restore citizens’ trust in the police.

This framework should consider the perspectives of the different ethnic and religious groups that exist in each community. To reflect the particular circumstances of each community, states and local governments should be at the forefront of designing and implementing community policing initiatives, if they are to succeed. It is not enough to recruit police officers from the community; such officers need to be trained and re-orientated towards building community partnerships and promoting durable peace in the conduct of their duties.

Mr. President, Governors – despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, security concerns are still of the greatest importance to many Nigerians. A government strategy to address the coronavirus pandemic without sustainable strategies to also confront rising insecurity and violence, poses a significant threat to the democratic development of our country, and could potentially undermine the government’s efforts to address the spread of the coronavirus in Nigeria now, and in the future.

Signed

Cardinal John Onaiyekan
General Martin Luther Agwai (rtd.)
Professor Attahiru Jega
Ambassador Fatima Balla
Professor Jibrin Ibrahim
Aisha Mohammed-Oyebode
Nguyan Shaku Feese
Usman Bugaje
Chris Kwaja

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