…stakeholders mull strategies to ending rural violence in North-West
..suggest sub-regional approach
The Head of Cooperation, Embassy of France in Nigeria, Mr. Ellien Helios, said that efforts to find sustainable solutions to the spate of insecurity in Nigeria particularly in the Northwest is inadequate, tasking all concerned authorities and stakeholders to step up actions to effectively define and tackle the menace .
This is just as stakeholders on the matter have warned that insecurity may escalate deeper to other regions in Nigeria and the country is at risk of underdevelopment, food shortage among others if not addressed.
Helios who represented the Ambassador of France in Nigeria, Mr. Jerome Pasquier, made this call in Abuja on Wednesday at a workshop on “Addressing Rural Insecurity and Violence in North-western Nigeria” convened by Pastoral Reserve (PARE) in collaboration with Search for Common Ground (SFCG), Nextier SPD and the French Embassy.
The envoy said the workshop presents a unique opportunity for stakeholders to develop a better understanding of the issues and strategize appropriate response.
He said: “There are many factors affecting the north-west region for years now, there are also many actors, but I don’t think there is enough being done by the actors to have a better understanding of the situation and try to find some appropriate solutions to the insecurity and the subsequent sufferings.
“We have a unique opportunity to work and listen to people that are gathering the best expertise on these issues, so let’s seize this opportunity as a starting point to get humble, but to also develop a better understanding of the issues , strategize response, develop a coordinative approach and increase action.”
Speaking, the Senior Research and Policy Lead, Nextier SPD, Dr. Ndubuisi Nwokolo, pointed out that the insecurity bedevilling the north should not be seen as a northern problem only, warning that the entire nation could bear the consequences of collective negligence.
Nwokolo warned that the entire country is at risk of food insecurity due to the unresolved insurgency in the north and advised that dialogue and a regional approach is needed to permanently address the problem.
“A very critical thing that we should all know first is that Zamfara and the north-western states are our food basket, if we don’t sort them out, Nigeria will face a food security problem. What is happening now is that the youths are running away from communities where their skills are needed in agriculture, but we find them now as ‘Okada riders’ in the cities or unemployed because they cannot stay in their communities.
“Why do you think some states are banning ‘okada’ and tricycles? So, we need to sort these things out, the better we sit as a people and talk about how to solve this pockets of conflict, else we cannot get out of it. And, if we sort out the northeast and we don’t sort out the northwest, it will move diagonal to that place, so as we are handling the northeast we should be talking about the northwest,” he advised.
In the same vein, the Country Director SFCG, Mr. Sher Nawaz, stressed that it was important is to look at the crisis at a regional, geographic level and develop a regional approach rather than focusing on a singular state.
Meanwhile, the Commissioner, Security and Home Affairs in Zamfara State, Mr. Mohammed Dauran, while giving a brief on the experience of the State government in addressing rural violence and insecurity since 2011, regretted that banditry activities has led to daily loss of lives, destruction of properties and food insecurity.
According to Dauran, 95 percent of the states population in farming activities are no longer going to farms for fear of being attacked.
The commissioner who was represented by Mr. Muhammad Adamu, regretted that the situation has made Zamfara, which used to be the most peaceful state no longer attractive to investors.
He further disclosed that over 2000 people (reported cases) were kidnapped by armed bandits which translated into low level of income of larger percentage of rural dwellers who were relegated to the background
“Example, in one emirate of Dansadau, about N75,000,000.00 has been paid as ransom by families of kidnapped victims,” he said.
He however revealed that, in addition to dialogue, Peacebuilding efforts, the unconditional release of about 525 kidnapped victims from both bandits and armed militia group between July – December, 2019 restored see level of peace to the state.
To this end, the Commissioner called for more support from government and non governmental agencies to rehabilitate and empower victims. He also called for more deployment of security agencies which is currently “not enough”.
Earlier, the chairman of the workshop from PARE, Mr. Abubakar Jauro, stressed that the North West Nigeria is not only facing insecurity problem, but development challenges that needs intervention of all.
“Food shortages are imminent, Joblessness has risen, hundreds of families are homeless and access to school and health services has been further impeded,” he said.
Jauro added, “Strategic and programmatic interventions are urgently required from all stakeholders to support Peacebuilding and restoration and to assist in addressing the developmental challenges of poverty, infrastructure deficit, poor health service delivery, malnutrition and unemployment among young people.
He expressed hope that the workshop will provide another avenue to share experiences on how best to respond to the multispectral and multifaceted challenges.
“It is hoped that the deliberations will contribute valuable suggestions and recommendation on the way forward. We are confident that with collective actions, the problems will soon be history,” he said.