By Constance Meju
As killings andatrocities continue to take center-stage in Rivers State, youth representativesfrom varied sectors of the state have pledged to take pro-active measures tosupport concerted efforts by all stakeholders in the state towards stamping outthe 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 thatengagement, a few issues came to the fore:
*No follow-up onyouths willing to denounce cultism and absence of welfare programmes; need forpeople development, welfare programmes, not just infrastructure development.
*Women are atthe center of societal atrocities with regards to behavioural issues; need to instillvalues in the children early.
*Absence of positive mentors for youths to look up to;poor parenting and need to address procreation without ability to nurturethrough -family planning as well as need to de-emphasize love of easy or cheapmoney encouraged by some parents.
*Mothers need tostop protecting criminal children as they often end up falling victims; to takeout time to observe their children-enter their rooms, search, if evidence of drugsor arms, begin to fight to stop them before it escalates as teenagers areheavily on drugs and parents not as watchful as should be.
*Governmentneeds to be committed to the fight against violence
*Our system isfaulty and needs to be re-jigged. Rwanda went to war in Kigali but 12 yearslater it is the safest place. Who cares about the unemployed? Who has the soulof Nigeria today-the righteous or the unrighteous?
Following this engagement,Kebetkache called out community women leaders to further deliberate on howwomen can contribute to the peace process being the worst impacted by theviolence.
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 thekey segment in the violence menace, Kebetkache then organized a youthengagement that was both robust and revealing during which the causes andinstruments of violence were identified and solutions proffered.
It was agreedthat high unemployment, high pursuit of easy wealth, destruction of familyvalues and selfishness of politicians fuel violence.
Details of the Youth engagement are reproduced below
Kebetkache WomenDevelopment and Resource Center, Port Harcourt organized a one-daysensitization for youths on ‘The Rate of Violence and Atrocities in the RiversState’ at Sparklyn Hotel, GRA, Port Harcourt on Friday June 14, 2019.
Aim was tobroaden understanding on the menace and dialogue with youths on how to helpchange the narrative. Experts made presentations on , ‘The role of youths inpreventing violence and mass atrocities’, ‘The Intersection and Linkage between Drug Abuse, Drug Usage, Addiction andViolence 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.
Fromdeliberations, participants acknowledged that there are high incidents ofviolence and mass atrocities in the state and that government and other agenciesare working to address them noting that this has negatively affected the imageof the state. They expressed happiness that more groups like Kebetkache arejoining to find solutions to the problem.
The youths statedthat:
*Youths arewilling to challenge wrong doings in search of peace but are worried thatviolent actors enjoy recognition from government over non-violent youths.
*Youth welfareand harnessing youth contribution to national development is considered anational strategic goal with youths being a critical segment of the Nigeriansociety.
*Addressing theroot causes and drivers of violent crimes and atrocities is the best approachto preventing them.
*A breakdown infamily values and mores, corresponding lack of respect, peer influence,breakdown of the machinery of socialization, misplacement of priorities andunbridled quest for materialism are responsible for the level of violence andatrocities in the state.
*Poor corporatesocial responsibility by international oil companies, IOCs in their hostcommunities, proliferation of arms in the region, perceived injustice and aweak justice system, fights over territorial control by cult groups, high levelof unemployment and wide drug usage play major roles in the crisis. They notedin particular, that Nigeria pushes out 1.7 million graduates annually withoutplans for absorbing them into the system thus swelling the rank of thefrustrated.
*Though NDLEA isworking hard to contain drug usage, lack of needed requirements includingtransportation and the fact that drug dealers continually device new ways tofeed their addiction hampers operations.
*Families sufferworst casualties for hiding their high risk user family members.
*Victims of drugabuse include the wider society as well as the nation since because of drugabuse,Nigeria and Nigerians suffer stigmatization at international level.
*Drug abuseaffects the active section of the Nigerian society while their counterparts incountries like India, China, Singapore, rake in millions of dollars to theircountries’ coffers.
*Drug abuse hasphysical, health, psychological and socio-economic consequences and the waragainst drugs can best be prosecuted when all stakeholders work together
*Though neglectand environmental abuse propelled Niger Delta militancy, the youths are willingand capable to contribute to redefining their destinies by engaging inprocesses that will end atrocities and enthrone peace.
They thenresolved as follows:
*That the floodof arms used by politicians to execute the 2019 elections be called in.
*That youthsneed positive role models and a responsive government.
*That youthsshould organize and collaborate to form a critical mass to non-violentlyadvocate for peace.
*That vigilantegroups be formed in communities to check violence and atrocities.
*That mutualconfidence in the police and other security agencies be built to encourage flowof credible and actionable intelligence from the people.
*That thereshould be continuous sensitization and gathering of early warning signals
*That youthsshould be in the vanguard of the campaign to end violence and atrocities andshould embrace volunteer services, develop a sense of community ownership andprotection of national assets.
*That thereshould be political will by those in authority to follow actions through.
*That NigerDelta governments should address human development through the establishment ofindustries, deliberate policies to address youth employment and introduceentrepreneurship and livelihood skills in our educational programmes.
*That governmentshould develop a legal framework on youths for the next 20 years.
*That NigerDelta governments should revisit the Niger Delta Master Plan for a road fromBayelsa to Lagos as that will usher in a free flow of commerce in the region.
*That a valuesystem be promoted through exhibition of credence by leaders to provide foryouths role models to look up to.
*That currentcalls by government for disarmament should obey the norm by offeringalternatives to those being disarmed, and
*That youths begood ambassadors of Rivers State, Niger Delta and Nigeria, useful to themselvesand refuse to fail but ready to develop to positively and impact and affectsociety.
#Gender And Accountability
Constance Meju is gender equity and environmental justice advocate and publisher of Port Harcourt based National Point Newspaper