By Constance Meju As killings and atrocities continue to take center-stage in Rivers State, youth representatives from varied sectors of the state
By Constance Meju
As killings and atrocities continue to take center-stage in Rivers State, youth representatives from varied sectors of the state have pledged to take pro-active measures to support concerted efforts by all stakeholders in the state towards stamping out the high wave of criminality strengthening the sanctity of the state.
Kebetkache Women Development and Resource Center, a non-governmental organization working on development, environment and women’s right in the Niger Delta has in the last few months, been engaging stakeholders on how to restore peace in the troubled zones. First it met with security heads including the Directorate State Security, DSS, Nigeria Defence Security, NDSC, Nigeria Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, National Orientation Agency, as well as director,NOA, director Citizens Right from the state Justice Ministry, media veterans, a pastor and a high ranking Air Force retiree.
From that engagement, a few issues came to the fore:
*No follow-up on youths willing to denounce cultism and absence of welfare programmes; need for people development, welfare programmes, not just infrastructure development.
*Women are at the center of societal atrocities with regards to behavioural issues; need to instill values in the children early.
*Absence of positive mentors for youths to look up to; poor parenting and need to address procreation without ability to nurture through -family planning as well as need to de-emphasize love of easy or cheap money encouraged by some parents.
*Mothers need to stop protecting criminal children as they often end up falling victims; to take out time to observe their children-enter their rooms, search, if evidence of drugs or arms, begin to fight to stop them before it escalates as teenagers are heavily on drugs and parents not as watchful as should be.
*Government needs to be committed to the fight against violence
*Our system is faulty and needs to be re-jigged. Rwanda went to war in Kigali but 12 years later it is the safest place. Who cares about the unemployed? Who has the soul of Nigeria today-the righteous or the unrighteous?
Following this engagement, Kebetkache called out community women leaders to further deliberate on how women can contribute to the peace process being the worst impacted by the violence.
The women from their narrated experiences of horrors and pains arising, from violence in their communities, confirmed being worst hit. They commended Kebetkache and OSIWA and expressed determination to join the peace movement beginning with stepping down knowledge gained, embarking on advocacy actions as well as taking on some youths on skills acquisition within their limited resources to keep them gainfully occupied
To capture the key segment in the violence menace, Kebetkache then organized a youth engagement that was both robust and revealing during which the causes and instruments of violence were identified and solutions proffered.
It was agreed that high unemployment, high pursuit of easy wealth, destruction of family values and selfishness of politicians fuel violence.
Details of the Youth engagement are reproduced below
Kebetkache Women Development and Resource Center, Port Harcourt organized a one-day sensitization for youths on ‘The Rate of Violence and Atrocities in the Rivers State’ at Sparklyn Hotel, GRA, Port Harcourt on Friday June 14, 2019.
Aim was to broaden understanding on the menace and dialogue with youths on how to help change the narrative. Experts made presentations on , ‘The role of youths in preventing violence and mass atrocities’, ‘The Intersection and Linkage between Drug Abuse, Drug Usage, Addiction and Violence and, ‘Violence and the Role of youths in Disarmament and Demobilization’. There were also situation reports from youth leaders from Abua, Ogoni, Eleme, Emuoha and Erema.
From deliberations, participants acknowledged that there are high incidents of violence and mass atrocities in the state and that government and other agencies are working to address them noting that this has negatively affected the image of the state. They expressed happiness that more groups like Kebetkache are joining to find solutions to the problem.
The youths stated that:
*Youths are willing to challenge wrong doings in search of peace but are worried that violent actors enjoy recognition from government over non-violent youths.
*Youth welfare and harnessing youth contribution to national development is considered a national strategic goal with youths being a critical segment of the Nigerian society.
*Addressing the root causes and drivers of violent crimes and atrocities is the best approach to preventing them.
*A breakdown in family values and mores, corresponding lack of respect, peer influence, breakdown of the machinery of socialization, misplacement of priorities and unbridled quest for materialism are responsible for the level of violence and atrocities in the state.
*Poor corporate social responsibility by international oil companies, IOCs in their host communities, proliferation of arms in the region, perceived injustice and a weak justice system, fights over territorial control by cult groups, high level of unemployment and wide drug usage play major roles in the crisis. They noted in particular, that Nigeria pushes out 1.7 million graduates annually without plans for absorbing them into the system thus swelling the rank of the frustrated.
*Though NDLEA is working hard to contain drug usage, lack of needed requirements including transportation and the fact that drug dealers continually device new ways to feed their addiction hampers operations.
*Families suffer worst casualties for hiding their high risk user family members.
*Victims of drug abuse include the wider society as well as the nation since because of drug abuse,Nigeria and Nigerians suffer stigmatization at international level.
*Drug abuse affects the active section of the Nigerian society while their counterparts in countries like India, China, Singapore, rake in millions of dollars to their countries’ coffers.
*Drug abuse has physical, health, psychological and socio-economic consequences and the war against drugs can best be prosecuted when all stakeholders work together
*Though neglect and environmental abuse propelled Niger Delta militancy, the youths are willing and capable to contribute to redefining their destinies by engaging in processes that will end atrocities and enthrone peace.
They then resolved as follows:
*That the flood of arms used by politicians to execute the 2019 elections be called in.
*That youths need positive role models and a responsive government.
*That youths should organize and collaborate to form a critical mass to non-violently advocate for peace.
*That vigilante groups be formed in communities to check violence and atrocities.
*That mutual confidence in the police and other security agencies be built to encourage flow of credible and actionable intelligence from the people.
*That there should be continuous sensitization and gathering of early warning signals
*That youths should be in the vanguard of the campaign to end violence and atrocities and should embrace volunteer services, develop a sense of community ownership and protection of national assets.
*That there should be political will by those in authority to follow actions through.
*That Niger Delta governments should address human development through the establishment of industries, deliberate policies to address youth employment and introduce entrepreneurship and livelihood skills in our educational programmes.
*That government should develop a legal framework on youths for the next 20 years.
*That Niger Delta governments should revisit the Niger Delta Master Plan for a road from Bayelsa to Lagos as that will usher in a free flow of commerce in the region.
*That a value system be promoted through exhibition of credence by leaders to provide for youths role models to look up to.
*That current calls by government for disarmament should obey the norm by offering alternatives to those being disarmed, and
*That youths be good ambassadors of Rivers State, Niger Delta and Nigeria, useful to themselves and refuse to fail but ready to develop to positively and impact and affect society.
#Gender And Accountability
Constance Meju is gender equity and environmental justice advocate and publisher of Port Harcourt based National Point Newspaper