BY: ABUBAKAR JIMOH

After its independent in 1960, Nigeria has repeatedly witnessed conflicts of diverse degree; triggering socio-economic, physical and emotional imbalances among the people.

Apparently, some of the resultant effects of communal conflicts are manifold loss of lives and property, investment opportunities, hunger and starvation, open violence, wars, mass strikes, and other forms of socio-economic disorders. Given the consistent rate of eruptions, almost every part of the country has been left vulnerable to one form of communal conflicts or another.

It is noteworthy that like most parts of the world, communal crises in Nigeria are multi-dimensional—religious, political, economic, social and ethno-linguistic. For instance, an African economist, Gesiye Angaye noted that the divisive interplay of politics, ethnics and religion in the country has led to rising nationalism and militancy of various ethnic movements, seeking self-determination, local autonomy, separate identity and true federalism.

The situation is not unconnected with the disintegration of our value system, especially among the youths who are always manipulated by warlords for selfish interests. The proliferation of small arms and light weapons, trans-nationalization of terrorism, globalization, and unequal distribution of resources are issues traditionally identified with conflicts.

Also, the Youths Against Disaster Initiative (YADI) gathered that the system of artificial and arbitrary boundaries that split ethnic groups among different local government areas and states in Nigeria are responsible for boundary disputes, neglect, oppression, domination, exploitation, victimization, discrimination, marginasation, nepotism, intolerance and demands for secession by some groups.

It could be recalled that in 2012, at a 2-Day Seminar organized by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) in collaboration with the Institute of Peace and Conflict Resolution (IPCR) in Lafia, Nasarawa State, the Director General of NEMA, Alhaji Muhammad Sani-Sidi attributed insecurity and violent conflicts confronting the nation to socio-economic struggles, drought and desertification, massive urbanization, landslides, unequal distribution of resources, ignorance, intolerance among various groups and communities.

Efforts to tackle communal clashes have received series of institutional and administrative attentions in the country. Among these are ‘Operation Ceto-Maza’, Free-toll Call and Distress Call Centres initiated under the leadership of Alhaji Sani-Sidi. These proactive measures have turned out to help averting hundreds of deaths and millions of naira property that would have been lost to frequent crises in the country.

In a bid to reduce rumour mongering and reckless speculations that are noted for some crises, NEMA has called on relevant stakeholders to build the capacity of Nigerians in ICT and in the application of social media networking in conflict and disaster early warning response, and in confronting misinformation that exacerbates conflicts and insecurity.

On its own part, YADI encourages governments at all levels while seeking to resolve conflicts to first identify the different dynamics of the conflicts; as two conflicts, even if occurred in the same area, may not be viewed from same perception. In this regard, they must conduct a critical review and analysis of existing conflicts to be able to forecast and understand futuristic threats regarding the conflicts.

Strict control must be maintained against the supply and use of arms and ammunitions as inadequate measures on these have fasten the outbreak of crises in the country and empowered warlords to accelerate conflicts rather than finding peaceful resolution.

Effort to resolve conflicts should give priority to the roles of traditional rulers, community/village heads, and the religious leaders who are likely to be more informed on the root causes of the clashes. They should be given chance to identify how their communities are affected by the conflict, how the obstacles to peace negotiations can be removed, and how traditional practices can offer alternative ways of ending conflict. This will help to attain post conflict reconciliation, peace building, and prevent reoccurrence of conflicts.

In order to avoid the conflict of class struggles, there must be equitable distribution of power, wealth, status and responsibilities among all ethnic communities in the country. Equality must be reinstalled in our traditional institutions and judiciary system; as national objectives can only be achieved through consideration for individuals’ fairness and justice before law.

Thus, individuals must shun undesirable elements that could capitalize on insecurity to attack innocent citizens; by taking it part of their civil responsibility to report a predicted or suspected crisis in their domain to the appropriate authority.

Various social and traditional institutions in communities should always encourage their members on attitudinal change in their mindset and proper orientation toward others. This can be achieved through proper education and enlightenment. The institutions should be operationally and structurally fortified for the inculcation of humility and patriotism in their members. Also, education institutions at all levels should concentrate on imparting useful knowledge, discipline and morality in students.

Due consideration must be given to the national integration and economic progress through institution of good governance at all levels. Patriotic efforts must be made towards poverty alleviation, and employment opportunities; as warlords would always source for idle populations who they can manipulate into ethnic, religious, political and class conflicts using food and material enticements.

Moreover, it is evident that during the dry season, low feedstuff and low water in rivers would trigger an early movement of herds in search of pasture and water as early as December/January, thereby increasing the risk of conflicts between herdsmen and farmers. YADI has encouraged all levels of Government to make drinkable water available for both man and animals in water deficit areas, through the provision of sufficient wells or boreholes in the affected communities.

Farmers are advised to start planting at the appropriate period, consciously use their food reserve, and improve feeds during the growing season in accordance with guidance and advice of state agriculture services. Traditional rulers and community heads across the country should encourage their herdsmen to make adequate provisions for their animal feeds against dry season; through massive storage of animal feedstuffs during the growing season.

Abubakar Jimoh is the National Coordinator, Youths Against Disaster (YADI), and lives in Abuja.
abujimoh01@yahoo.com