Nearly two months after former President Muhammadu Buhari passed on the baton of leadership to the newly sworn-in administration, perpetrators of terrorism and other criminal elements are yet to sheathe their swords. As at yesterday’s evening when this piece was being written, no fewer than 280 people have been reportedly killed, especially in Plateau and Benue State, with several communities and towns decimated in the most dreadful manner.
In cognisance of the unending spiraling level of insecurity, a faith-based mission organisation dedicated to sharing God’s love by delivering empowering aid to live abundant lives, Vision Africa, in collaboration with the Lisbon-based International Dialogue Centre, popularly called KAICIID, recently staged a roundtable summit at the Abuja Transcorp Hotel on the theme: ‘Conflict-Sensitive Strategies To Address Insecurity In Nigeria’.
Gathered at the event were elected office holders, religious, security, regional leaders, youth and women groups, among others. The event was hosted by the Founder and President of Vision Africa, Bishop Sunday Ndekwo Onuoha and the Nigeria Country Expert/Representative, Mr Joseph Atang. The roundtable meeting was a continuation of a series of dialogue aimed at synergising with critical stakeholders towards identifying factors that could be deployed in tackling insecurity and other crimes bedeviling the country.
Welcoming participants to the roundtable, Bishop Onuoha harped on the need for leaders in various fields of endeavours to collectively identify and evolve effective strategies to combat insecurity and other forms of violent conflicts in the country. Identifying the relevance of amity as a major plank upon which the blocks of unity and understanding could be built, the cleric noted that nothing should be left to chance for a strong coalition against insecurity.
The bishop expressed anxiety over Nigeria’s future, insisting that nothing should be spared to form a united front against violent attacks plaguing the country and citizens. In his words: “We have a young generation that is quickly losing hope in its leadership, and the concern is that if we don’t address these lingering issues now, no military can manage the revolts of their collective frustrations”.
President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), His Eminence Archbishop Daniel Okoh, welcomed participants at the roundtable as another opportunity in finding peace and tackling insecurity in the country. His view was re-echoed by the representative of the Sultan, Imam Fuad Adeyemi, who expressed hope that the roundtable was expected to broaden the frontiers of understanding for collective action.
A member of the House of Representatives, who represents Damboa/Goza/Chibok Federal Constituency, Hon Ahmad Jaha, absolved members of the National Assembly of any form of dereliction, saying the National Assembly have left no stone unturned in ensuring that the nation’s armed forces were not starved of required funding.
According to the lawmaker whose constituency has been the most hit in Southern Borno by Boko Haram members: “We have done our job by appropriating required funding for the armed forces. What we should be asking is: Have the armed forces done what they were expected to do? The problem we must tackle here is that, after appointing these security chiefs; we should set targets for them and spell out deadlines for such targets to be achieved. If they fail to achieve such targets, we must ensure there are consequences to be faced. So, it is not enough for security chiefs to be appointed; we must ensure they meet targets for their appointments”.
The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Major General Christopher Gwabin, reiterated the determination of the armed forces to secure citizens and eliminate acts of terrorism being unleashed across the country. He assured participants that the armed forces under his command were determined to secure life and property of Nigerians in all parts of the country. Represented by Air Vice Marshall Anthony Ndace, the CDS recalled past efforts at obliterating criminal groups, just as he vowed that current efforts at crushing criminal elements shall be people-centred through inter-agency synergy and collaboration by critical stakeholders.
The spokesman of the Department of State Services (DSS), Dr Peter Afunanya, recalled the ingratitude unleashed on security personnel, especially members of the secret police, and other security personnel who are still castigated for efforts aimed at securing the lives of citizens. Like other victims of insecurity, Afunanya said DSS personnel are not insulated from the risk of falling victims to the evil machinations of enemies of the country. He recalls: “Three children of our personnel were once killed in the presence of their mother in order to cause mental trauma for the family members. This is just a case that we witnessed in fighting these criminal elements”.
The leaders of regional socio-cultural groups were not left out in expressing their views on how best to tackle security challenges. The National President of the Middle Belt Forum (MBF), Dr Pogu Bitrus, described what he referred to as “the mischaracterisation of the conflict” in the Middle Belt Region. He argued that if the truth must be told, defenceless citizens, especially in the Middle Belt, are daily killed and their communities overtaken in the name of herder/farmer’s conflict. He recalled that hundreds of towns have been decimated, with both government and security agencies not doing enough to return displaced people to their ancestral homes now occupied by foreign invaders.
Represented by the Deputy National Secretary of the MBF, Barrister Aba Ejembi, the Forum’s National President declared: “What is happening in the Middle Belt Region is not herder/farmer’s clash, but a ploy by foreign criminal herdsmen, using sophisticated weapons, to unleash unimaginable proportion of horrifying destruction on the people of the Middle Belt and other areas of Nigeria”.
The leader of the Pan Nigeria Delta Development Forum (PANDEF), Chief Edwin Clark, restated his call for restructuring the nation and insisted that regions/states should be allowed to control their resources. Represented by Chief Ominimini Obiuwevisi, the PANDEF Leader wondered why petroleum resources from the South are treated as belonging to the Federal Government, but solid minerals in the North are not exploited for the national treasury. For security and peace to hold sway and equity entrenched, Clark said justice must be delivered to all parts of the nation.
The Afenifere leader, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, who was represented by Dr Akin Fapohunda, suggested that Nigeria must return to regional governments and powers should be devolved to the regions that once served as economic zones. In his words: “We must go back to the First Republic when our founding fathers recognised our differences. The present system is fraught with unworkable structures that render it impossible for Nigeria to ensure justice and equity for its constituents. We must build on efforts geared at restructuring the country to ensure recognition of ethnic and economic zones”.
Kaduna-based Islamic cleric, Sheikh Abubakar Ahmad Gumi, who said he was representing the unrepresented, noted that injustice was the major cause of insecurity. He called on Nigerians to task politicians and security agencies to sincerely perform their mandates and shun filthy lucre, lamenting that both perpetrators and victims of insecurity are fallouts of an unjust system. The Islamic cleric warned that except adequate efforts were deployed to reach out to bandits and other criminal elements terrorising citizens, the dream of ridding the nation of terrorists and brigands may continue to be a mirage.
There’s no doubt that the summit offered yet another opportunity for frank assessment on the various means of fighting monsters of insecurity confronting the country. Though the suggestions were many, the
KAICIID’s Representative, Mr. Atang, commended participants for their insightful and frank views, noting that all the speakers at the roundtable were desirous of being citizens of United Nigeria, but all of them yearned for a change. He added that the meeting represents yet another small but giant leap in advancing peaceful dialogue towards greater nationhood.
Some speakers, especially from youth groups, cautioned against rewarding non-state actors engaged in armed conflict against the state. When government rewards armed actors in pushing for recognition, according to the Vice President (National Affairs) of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), Comrade Victor Ezenagu, then, the government is invariably legitimising the use of force for recognition and attention, adding, “Government must not send out the wrong impression that it listens more to armed youths and other criminal elements than law-abiding citizens interested in peaceful dialogue”.
For the new CDS who has emphasised on people-centred strategies in resolving security challenges, this week’s summit provides a frank roadmap on how to evolve effective conflict-sensitive strategies as catalysts in waging a final battle against monsters of insecurity.