The Federal Government has been asked to focus the proposed regional peace meetings on the real stakeholders and not on elite organizations. The FG is also urged to make disarmament its top priority.
In a statement on Wednesday, the Nigerian Working Group on Peace and Conflict Prevention, (WOGPC) said there can be no meaningful outcome of the proposed regional meeting unless the organisers focus on the most critical sector which also included the self-determination groups.
The statement signed by the group’s Adewale Adeoye, (Chairman) , and four regional secretaries, Barriser Uche Okwukwu, Chief Digifa Werenipre, Kudu Abubakar and Weyinmi Agbateyiwo said the country’s fortunes of peace and security flounders warning that the risk of a major upheaval is imminent. WOGPC is hosted by Journalists for Democratic Rights, (JODER)
The group said while poverty, bad governance, weak institutions and a fragile human rights regime are at the bottom of increasing violence across the country, it noted that the committee will make a mistake if all it does is to engage government officials and elite clubs without constructive engagements with actors on the theatre of violence.
‘There have been many committees for political opportunism. There have been many reports without implementation. The organisers of the regional meetings should be honest to also admit that the foundation of the country is faulty. You cannot rebuild a collapsing building through buying of new curtains and cooking utensils. You have to address the foundation”, the group said.
WOGPC listed the major forms of violence in Nigeria as farmers-herders clashes; criminal banditry, violent cultism, terrorism and religious extremism. The group said the government should also realize that these forms of violence have refueled ethnic hatred, instability and the renewed agitation for ethnic self-determination. It however cautioned the Federal Government not to equate the agitation for self-determination as an act of terror unless in cases where terror have been employed as a means of achieving greater autonomy. It urged the Nigerian government to be careful in making the error of hasty generalization adding that each form of violence must be analysed and understood in context because they are not necessarily the same and are not propelled by the same mission.
The WOGPC said the main actors of violence are youths driven by the scorching socio-political and economic crisis accentuated by the self- serving policies of the Nigerian ruling class. The group said Nigeria is creating a special class of privileged elite and their children segregated in schools, social strata and access to opportunities adding that this create a time bomb waiting to explode.
“The FG’s committee visiting the zones should not engage the government and elite organisations alone. The youths, artisan groups, peasants are more important in finding a lasting solution to what threatens to tear Nigeria into pieces.
The WOGPC also asked the authorities to tackle secondary elements which promote violence the most important being the proliferation of illicit weapons.
“Nigeria is battling the menace of illicit weapons. Some 500 million illegal weapons are in West Africa. Out of this, over 300million of them are in Nigeria. The government has been paying lip service to disarmament. In many cases, the government paid millions of naira to armed groups to hand over their weapons. They in turn use the funds to buy more weapons. It has become a spiral circle of arms race among competing arms cartels,” WOGPC said.