The Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office (FCDO) of the British Government on Thursday that the rise in conflict in Nigeria could destabilise the country’s democracy in the build up to the 2023 elections.
Development Director of FCDO, Chris Pycroft, stated this at the launch of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) Peace and Inclusive Security Initiative (PISI). He pointed out that peace and stability could be achieved when the causes of conflict in society are managed through strong, fair, and responsive governance mechanisms at community, state, or federal level.
This is even as the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) declared that the level of insecurity across the country is not only eroding the safety of citizens as well as peoples means of livelihood but also threatening the expression of the rights of Nigerians.
They both spoke at the launch of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) Peace and Inclusive Security Initiative (PISI) in Abuja.
While delivering a good will message, Beecroft blamed the frequent crisis on injustice and impunity and weak justice institutions in the country. He stressed that the conflict represents an existential threat to Nigeria’s unity and its development.
“There is an active insurgency in the North East, farmer-herder conflicts are extending across the country, resource conflicts in the Delta, tension in the South-East and banditry in the North West. Conflict destroys lives, destroys livelihoods, hope and ambition for the future. Conflict represents an existential threat to Nigeria’s unity and its development.”
Beecroft explained that the use of police and army would only be part of the solution and called for greater emphasis on reconciliation, mediation, arbitration, and access to justice – all vital components of a vibrant, resilient, and effective social contract.
According to him, proliferation of small arms and weapons and the weaponisation of social media are drivers of conflict and instability.
He called for job creation for young Nigerians “so they have a stake in a prosperous and peaceful Nigeria,” adding however, that “with the right commitment, dedications and support, there are solutions.”
Beecroft stated that the UK Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office recognised the important role the NGF plays in setting the peace and security agenda and in building state and community level structures and institutions to reduce violence and respond to conflict and insecurity across Nigeria.
“The UK is pleased to have been able to support this initiative and is committed to continue working with the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) in advancing its peace and security agenda.
“The UK is engaged in supporting Nigeria to reduce violent conflict in a number of areas. We promote a regional response in the North East and Lake Chad Basin through our contribution to the Regional Stabilisation Facility (RSF) and delivery of programmes on peace building, humanitarian assistance, protection of civilians, human development, good governance and accountability.”
Meanwhile, the NGF chairman and Governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi, who spoke on behalf of his colleagues, confessed that the spate of violence and coordinated criminal activities have undermined government authority and waned public trust in recent times.
He maintained that the level of insecurity across parts of the country is not only eroding citizens’ safety and people’s means of livelihood, but is also threatening the expression of the rights of all Nigerians.
Fayemi attributed the current security crisis to several factors “including an oversized population that the government is unable to cope with, a large number of poor people estimated at over 40 percent of the population who are living below $1 per day and indeed, desertification which has affected over 60 percent of Nigeria’s land as drought and climate change has continued to aggravate land deterioration in the country.”
He also blamed the situation on proliferation of small arms and light weapons, which he said worsened and exacerbated the level of violence and fatalities, pointing out that between May 2011 and February 2021, over 76,000 deaths were reported.
The NGF chairman said, “This number also includes persons who have been killed by a state actor. In addition to the proliferation of arms is an undertone of rising ethnic conflict, with different ethnic groups subsumed in conflicts and pitched against one another.”
Also speaking at the event, former head of state and Chairman of National Peace Committee Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar (retd) expressed worry over what he called the instrumentalisation of violence, noting that violence has become a commodity in Nigeria.
Abubakar, who was represented by Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Fr. Matthew Hassan Kukah, said Nigerians were in denial of the diagnosis. He said poverty was not the cause of violence in Nigeria, arguing that China has about 300 million unemployed.