Aloysius Attah, Onitsha
Worried by the spate of herders-farmers’ clashes in some agrarian communities of Ayamelum, Oyi and Anambra East, a federal government agency, the Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (IPCR), recently organised a stakeholders town hall meeting in Onitsha on strengthening peace and democracy in Anambra North zone.
The meeting attracted various stakeholders which included traditional rulers, Presidents-General of town unions, market union executives, businessmen, religious leaders, youth groups, security agents, market women and other diverse groups and citizens from the seven local government areas in the Senatorial District.
The town hall meeting was chaired by the Chairman, Anambra State Vigilante Services (AVS), Chief Okechukwu Aduba; a retired Commissioner of Police.
Aduba in his opening remarks raised alarm over the continued menace of herdsmen in parts of the zone which he feared may escalate in the near future with the attendant loss of lives and property.
He called for synergy and cooperation of all stakeholders towards maintaining peace and security in the zone and other parts of the state even as the meeting also x-rayed other multifarious problems affecting their people.
The meeting noted that hunger, poverty and lack of basic infrastructure breed “anger, insecurity, fear, tension, apathy and eventual break down of law and order which in all are consequences of bad governance and poor representation.”
Nigeria’s fragile structure of regional imbalance which has generated calls for restructuring was one of the issues fingered by the participants as threat to peaceful existence of the country too.
A Professor of Political Science at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Makodi Biereenu-Nnabugwu, who was a resource person at the programme, pointed out that wrong allocation of resources, poor representation and incompetent judiciary promote crisis and bad governance. He blamed some of the issues of bad governance on poor monitoring of those in government and primitive accumulation of wealth.
According to him, many Nigerian politicians do not get into power to serve but to steal. While admitting that conflict is always part of life, he pointed out that peace is necessary for democracy to thrive.
In another presentation, former Consular General, Nigerian High Commission, South Africa; Ambassador Uche Ajulu-Okeke dwelt on the role of stakeholders in strengthening peace and democracy in Anambra North. She gave insight into the origin and negative exploits of herdsmen, warning that they may overrun and occupy farmlands forcefully and displace the vulnerable in the area.
She identified two fundamental approaches to conflict resolution and peace which according to her includes peaceful and inclusive approaches. This entails use of enlightenment, transparency, being free and fair to all concerned and respect for human rights.
She said that taking multi-dimensional approaches to deal with root causes –political, social, psychological, community, educational and economic strategies combined with fair criminal justice procedures–stand a better chance of minimizing extremism and promoting peace in local communities
Earlier, in a welcome address, the Acting Director General of IPCR, Dr Bakut Bakut, who was represented by the Head, Gender, Grace Awodu, said the Institute’s mandate is promoting peace, preventing, managing and resolving conflict in the country and the continent through research, capacity building and intervention programmes.
The agency, she pointed out, works in partnership with diverse groups including security agencies to achieve their objectives.
In an interview, the South East Coordinator, Lady Amaka Uzodinma disclosed that the town hall meeting provided insight into issues that endanger peace within the local communities.
Uzodimma noted that participants in the town hall meeting have been exposed to conflict early warning indicators and signs embedded in the local communities in Anambra North.
“A situation where schools in remote areas are closed due to fear of attack from herders, farmers keep away from farm work and idle youths engage in cultism and drugs, calls for early response to ameliorate the situation. All these fall within the mandate of our office here in the South East. Our findings would be reported to the headquarters for appropriate interventionist programmes like this to also be stepped down to the core communities,” she said.