As a serving member of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) with great interest in the Disaster Risks Reduction (DRR) campaigns, I received an invitation to attend a 2-Day Seminar organized by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) in collaboration with the Institute of Peace and Conflict Resolution (IPCR) which was held in Lafia, Nasarawa State. The workshop was on Peace Building and Conflict Management for sustainable development in Nigeria, with a theme “Response to Violence Conflict and Disasters” held in Lafia, Nasarawa state.
At the event which had in attendance major stakeholders in disaster management, many factors were suggested to have resulted to crises in Nigeria over the years. For instance, 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, weak traditional and socio-political institutions. He also blamed ignorance, intolerance among various groups and communities, unequal distribution of resources among others.
From the outset, participants at the workshop which included traditional rulers, youths, labour groups, community leaders and members of security forces, realised that conflicts and disasters share common links because disasters cause conditions which weaken state and lead to conflicts. They identified the current state of conflicts and insecurity as having roots in Nigeria’s history, social exclusion, diversity, growing poverty rate, developmental and governance challenges. Meanwhile as some of the participants noted the inevitability of conflict and disaster, the resource persons sensitized participants to be committed to conflict and disaster management as peace is possible and conflict and disaster are preventable and manageable.
Interestingly stakeholders, especially from Plateau, Plateau and Nasarawa and others whose states have witnessed intense communal clashes expressed their willingness and commitment to collaborate and synergize for conflict, disaster and security management.
Nigeria is presently confronted with cases of insecurity and violent conflicts that continue to challenge the country’s democracy, stunting economic growth and development. These deadly conflicts have decreased the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), affected social cohesion, the standard of education, increased religious intolerance, weakened traditional and religious values, and are serious threats to the national quest for stable democracy. This situation is not unconnected with the disintegration of our value system, especially among the youth who are always manipulated by elites for selfish interests. The proliferation of small arms and light weapons; the transnationalization of terrorism; globalization; unequal distribution of resources are issues that have been traditionally identified with conflicts. However, the rise in natural and man-induced disasters have further exacerbated the state of insecurity and violent conflicts in Nigeria.
Towards the end the participant at the peace-building workshop agreed on the need for a broad based and people driven approach to security management as well as involving traditional and community institutions in conflict and disaster management initiatives at all levels.
Issues bordering on unemployment rate in the country were also discussed extensively as Nigerian youths are susceptible to violent conflicts and insecurity because of idleness, illiteracy and joblessness. In this case, the participants recommended knowledge, skills transfer, and local technical support to promote self-help skills are as essential principles toward peace building. The engagement of youth through skill and technical capacity building programmes were advocated to prepare and diversify their skills for employment. The fight against corruption is also recommended to be intensified in order to combat the endemic institutional corruption in the country while calling on security operatives to abide by the rule of engagements and professions in conflicts situations.
It was unanimously agreed that there is the need to improve collaboration among all stakeholders to build trust, synergy and confidence in disaster management in Nigeria, while the Nigerian business sector must put in resources to peace making, peace building programs in collaboration with the government.
In an effort to reduce remour mongering and reckless speculations that were noted for some crises, the stakeholders at the forum called on the relevant authorities 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.
As Nigerians, we are all stakeholders in disaster management and peace-building efforts. Therefore we have the responsibility to make peace a reality and be conflict managers and not conflict generators.
The workshop was able to achieve its aims and objectives of reviewing strategies for violent conflict and disaster responsiveness in Nigeria; it is only hope that the orgnisers NEMA and IPCR would replicate the same in other geopolitical zones, not only as talkshop but to follow-up on the recommendations.
Abubakar Jimoh is a Member of NYSC in Abuja, and author of “Tips Against Ten Major Disasters in Nigeria”