‘Nigerians are dying’, Jega , Onaiyekan, others tell Buhari

A group of concerned Nigerians says citizens in Nigeria are facing double suffering because they have been forced to contend with rising insecurity and violence across the country and called on the Nigerian government to immediately address the rising insecurity if it is to succeed in the fight against the covid-19 pandemic.

The group whose members include Cardinal John Onaiyekan, General Martin Luther Agwai (rtd.), Professor Attahiru Jega, Ambassador Fatima Balla, Professor Jibrin Ibrahim, Mrs. Aisha Muhammed-Oyebode, Dr. Nguyan Shaku Feese, Dr. Usman Bugaje and Dr. Chris Kwaja said a survey it commissioned in Nigeria found new linkages between COVID19, instability, and conflict.

The group said that the survey found that victims of recent violence are less likely to trust the government’s coronavirus response measures compared to those who have not experienced violence.

They said that increasing insecurity across the country raises questions about the ability of the country’s security architecture to manage the multiple security challenges at the state and local levels.

The group of eminent Nigerians argued that kidnapping for ransom has become an acute concern across Nigeria, adding that the government has been incapable of assuring Nigerians that it cares about our predicament.

They recommended that dialogue to address the multiple acts of violence from intercommunal and ethnoreligious conflicts must be initiated immediately at the state and national levels.

“There must be a serious attempt to address insecurity and growing mistrust between citizens. The trust deficit between citizens and the governments must be narrowed if our country is to survive this season of violence. The dialogue process must be collective, inclusive, genuine, and results-oriented in order to start rebuilding the trust necessary to restore peace. The National Council of State can initiate the dialogue process at the national level. The Nigeria Governor’s Forum – the umbrella body of the 36 state governors – must be the anchor that takes the dialogue process to the grassroots. The National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP) – a federal government initiative launched in 2018 in collaboration with the state governments to develop the livestock sector, and stem violent conflicts between farmers and herders is an entry point in finding a pathway to peace.

The group also called for an end to impunity, saying that “Criminality and violent confrontations between farming and herding communities have claimed thousands of lives and deepened ethnic, religious, and regional polarization, and yet few perpetrators have been prosecuted. Constitutionally, state governors are the chief security officers in their states and therefore should take the lead in ensuring that perpetrators of violent crimes in their states are held accountable. The federal government should order the reinvestigation of all recent major incidents of farmer-herder violence, and working closely with the state governments, should also fast-track the judicial processes of individuals or organizations found to have participated, sponsored or been complicit in the violence. The lack of prosecution of the perpetrators of these violent crimes continues to erode trust between citizens and government.

“A dialogue process cannot bear fruit if those who are found guilty of committing or instigating violence are not prosecuted, and if the security situation in the country does not begin to improve. There is a growing public consensus that the current leadership of our security agencies have failed woefully, and that our Commander-in-Chief has so far refused to act. This cannot continue. Mr. President, you must show more concern and do what is necessary to improve the effectiveness of our security agencies, even if it means replacing the current leadership of our security agencies.

“Stop paying lip service to police reform: The recent government announcement about the take-off of the new community policing initiative is commendable, however, many similar previous government initiatives in the
past have produced few tangible results. The government should use these new discussions about community policing to demonstrate sincere commitment towards building an inclusive policing framework that will begin to restore citizens’ trust in the police. This framework should consider the perspectives of the different ethnic and religious groups that exist in each community. To reflect the particular circumstances of each community, states and local governments should be at the forefront of designing and implementing community policing initiatives, if they are to succeed. It is not enough to recruit police officers from the community; such officers need to be trained and re-orientated towards building community partnerships and promoting durable peace in the conduct of their duties.

“Mr. President, Governors – despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, security concerns are still of the greatest importance to many Nigerians. A government strategy to address the coronavirus pandemic without sustainable strategies to also confront rising insecurity and violence, poses a significant threat to the democratic development of our country, and could potentially undermine the government’s efforts to address the spread of the coronavirus in Nigeria now, and in the future”.