Friday, 16 June 2017

Key Religious and Community Leaders Condemn Spate of Hate Speech Across the Country

Religious and Community Leaders in Jos, the Plateau State Capital have condemned the rising spate of hate speech across the country, calling on their followers to shun provocative actions and comments that are capable of causing disunity in the country.
Speaking at a quarterly Dialogue and Consultative meeting held at the Dialogue, Reconciliation and Peace (DREP) Centre, Jos on Thursday 15th June 2017, the leaders called on Christian and Muslim clerics as well as community leaders to use their pulpits and good offices to douse the rising tension across the country while insisting that Nigeria is greater together as a nation.
In a community issued at the end of the meeting which had in attendance Key religious and community leaders as well as members of the security agencies and other organized religious, cultural and social groups, the leaders called on the government and security agencies to be proactive in arresting and prosecuting persons and groups making inciting statements that can plunge the country into chaos and violence.
Details of the communique reads as follows:

Arising from a dialogue and combined consultative meeting of Religious and Ethnic/Community leaders held on Thursday, 15th June 2017, We Religious and Community leaders at the Dialogue, reconciliation and Peace Centre (DREP), Jos, make the following observations:
1.    While we appreciate the continued peaceful coexistence being experienced in Jos town and its environs, we however decry the increasing hate speech among our youth which can cause serious crisis. We therefore, call on our youth to be tolerant and charitable in their speech. We also call on security agencies to prosecute all those who threaten the peace through hate speech. We call on all parents, religious and community leaders to caution their children and followers against making provocative and inciting comments.  
2.    We also appreciate the current peace we are enjoying in Jos town and surrounding but we decry the increasing cases of criminality and lawlessness and urge that they be curtailed. We observe in addition to car and battery stealing, motorcycles still operate in some locations in defiance to the directive by Government banning them. We also observed that tricycles still operate beyond their restricted time and when security agents arrest them, they are alleged to pay bribe and are allowed to continue operating, this has resulted in increased crime and insecurity.
3.    We wish to caution our youth to stop beating the drums of war and also fanning the embers of division that can threaten the peace of the country. Nigeria as a nation cannot afford another civil war. Hence, such comments even when made as a joke must stop forthwith. We wish to reiterate our strong belief in the oneness and unity of Nigeria as its indivisibility is non-negotiable.
4.    We call on citizens to develop the habit of good waste management. We also call on Government agencies such as Jos Metropolitan Development Board (JMDB) and Ministries for Urban Development and Health to do more in waste collection and drainage clearing so as to prevent flood and other health hazards. 
5.    We observe that drugs and substance abuse by our youth is on the rise as such illicit drugs and substances are now sold and consumed openly in areas such as Angwan Rukuba, Janta Mangoro, Gada Biyu, Angwan Rogo, Utan, Rukkuba Road, West of mines etc. Security agencies appear either indifferent or are helpless. We therefore, call on the security agencies to wake up to their responsibility of ridding our communities of illegal drugs and substances. We must not forget that drug and substance abuse encourage crime and violence.
6.    We wish to commend the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) of Nassarawa Police Division and Sector 2 of the Special Task Force (STF) for their effort and collaboration in ridding the surrounding communities of drug addicts and substance abusers as well as other criminals.
7.    We commend elders, leaders and even youths who distance themselves from hate speeches and the clamour for the division of our country. We urge all to work towards a united Nigeria where there is justice for all and equitable distribution of resources among our citizens.
8.    We call on Christian and Muslim clerics and religious leaders to use the pulpit to discourage their faithfuls from making hate speeches that create tension and leads to violence among our citizens.
9.    We call on Fulani herdsmen to avoid grazing their cattle on cultivated farmlands during this farming season to avoid clashes with farmers in our rural areas.
10.Arrested drug addicts and criminals must not be let to go off lightly by security personnel. They should be prosecuted in proportion to their crime so as to discourage others from committing the same crime.
11. We commend the presence and active participation of the Department of State Service (DSS), Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC) and the Director General of the Plateau Peace Building Agency (PPBA) at our meeting. We look forward to the participation of other Government Agencies like the Special Task Force (STF), the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), National Drugs Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) and other security agencies. We strongly believe that their personal presence and contribution will add great value to our interactions.
12. We the religious and community leaders in our dear Plateau State pledge to live peacefully with one another among the ethnic, community and the religious groups, and we renew our loyalty and determination to live as one people in one state under one indivisible nation and God. We also wish our Muslim brothers and sisters a happy and peaceful Sallah celebration.
RELIGIOUS LEADERS                                                                                             
JAMA’ATU NASRIL ISLAM (JNI) (ALH. YUSUF SARUMI)                                 
EMIR OF WASE (REP. BY MUSTAPHA UMAR GALADIMA)                             
TEKAN/ECWA HQS (THOMAS W. HILDI)                                                         
NACOMYO (MALAM ABDULMAJEED ABDULLLATEEF)                                   
NAWAIRUDEEN JOS (SURAJUDEEN SOYOYE)                                                

COMMUNITY LEADERS                                                                    
BEROM COMMUNITY          (DA. Y. N. DANG)                                           
ANAGUTA COMMUNITY (MATHEW P. SANI)                                             
IGBO COMMUNITY (PROF. J. E. C. OBILOM)                                           
SOLOMON A. OLUGBODI)                                  
YORUBA COMMUNITY (CHIEF TOYE OGUNSHEYI)                                  
SOUTH-SOUTH COMMUNITY (CHIEF. IGNATIUS EMLI)                            
MIYETTI ALLAH (ALH. MUHAMMAD NURU)                                                
DREP BOARD (PAUL GUNAT)                                                                       



Friday, 17 March 2017

Religious and Community Leaders condemn the rising spate of criminality and cult activities in Jos city

Religious and Community leaders in Jos have condemned in strong terms the rising spate of criminality and cult activities in Jos city which they attributed to hire rate for drug and substance abuse among our youths.
the leaders who made their views known at a dialogue and consultative meeting held in the Mediation Hall of Dialogue, Reconciliation and Peace (DREP) Centre, Kwang, Rayfield on Thursday March 16 2017 said the increase in cases of armed robbery and kidnapping can be attributed to the proliferation of arms and light weapons among the youths especially among tertiary school students in the state. They called on security agencies be more proactive in stemming the tides and securing the lives of the people.
In attendance at the meeting were Christian and Muslim religious leaders as well as leaders of ethnic and community groups in the State.
Below is the resolution reached at the end of the meeting:

Arising from a dialogue and combined consultative meeting of Religious and Ethnic/Community leaders held on Thursday, 16th March 2017, We Religious and Community leaders at the Dialogue, Reconciliation and Peace Centre (DREP), Jos, make the following observations:
1.     We appreciate the improved peaceful coexistence being experienced in our communities; we however decry the growing incidences of criminality in Jos and it’s environs especially Apata, Angwan Rukuba, Rikkos, Rukuba Road etc. We wish to reiterate the need for security agents to be present during our meetings so that they can get first hand security updates from our communities for immediate and prompt intervention.

2.     We applaud the peaceful relationship that now exists between the Fulani and their host communities. We note with happiness that the Fulani can now graze freely in Vom, Riyom and Berom land is now generally safe for the Fulani people and their cattle.  This was made possible by our continue dialogue and collaboration. We continue to encourage such dialogue and collaboration among our people.

3.     We commend the proactive response of the state Government in refuting the rumour that the Fulani groups are planning to launch attacks on innocent citizens in the State. We wish to caution citizens from spreading unfounded rumours and reckless use of the social media that could incite and destroy the peaceful coexistence being enjoyed presently by our citizens.

4.     We condemn strongly the growing cases of armed robbery, drugs abuse and substance abuse, occultism and kidnapping within in some parts of Jos town such as Apata, Farin Gada, Rukuba Road (Kabong), Gada Biyu, Museum and West of Mines area. We therefore call on Security Agencies to be proactive in fighting this menace in securing our communities.

5.     We wish to bring to the attention of the Plateau State Government and it’s agencies, the plight of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) that have been urged to return to their communities in Ropp and Gashish, but efforts to rebuild their homes are thwarted as materials gathered for reconstruction are destroyed mostly at night. We therefore, call on government and security agents to encourage this process of integration by providing security and assistance to affected people and communities. Intelligent agencies should find out those who are responsible for prosecution.
6.     We commend the government for embarking on massive road construction and rehabilitation in some parts of Jos. e.g. Angwan Rogo, West of Mines, Satellite market (Kabong) linking Tudun Wada as this will ease traffic congestion and alleviate the suffering of our people. We encourage Government to continue to initiate pro-people policies and projects.

7.     We commend the Hausa, Funlani, Tarok and Jukun communities and their leaderships for their joint effort in fighting insurgency attack in Zunzukut village in Wase LGA. We call on other communities to emulate the same.

8.     We call on our communities to be vigilant and security conscious about their neighbourhood; knowing their neighbours and what they do for a living. We also encourage them to be vigilant about the crisis in Southern Kaduna due to it’s proximity to our communities so that the conflict does not escalate in to our communities. We also recommend a similar dialogue process by all stakeholders towards ending the conflict in Southern Kaduna.

9.      We call on parents to live up to their parental responsibilities by monitoring the movement and activities of their children and wards. They should also ensure discipline within the family cycle.

10.  We once more discourage farmers from selling their farm produce prematurely or immediately after harvest so as to have enough for family use.

RELIGIOUS LEADERS                                                                                                                    
BEROM COMMUNITY (DA. Y. N. DANG)                                                                             

Monday, 6 March 2017

Countering Violent Extremism and De-Radicalization on the Plateau through Peace Education

In contributing to the overall peacebuilding process on the Plateau, Dialogue, Reconciliation and Peace (DREP) Centre has commenced a Peace Education Project targeted at Students and out of school youths for communities in Jos North, Jos South and Barkin Ladi local Government of Plateau State. DREP Centre is aware of the contributions of peace education to the overall growth of children and youths by helping them develop characteristics essential for the attainment of peace.  The project is aimed at countering violent extremism among school and out of school youths by helping them create a sense of dignity and self-worth, a confidence to question their values, communication skills, and ethical awareness and an empathy for others.  
It is hoped that at the end of the project, selected youths from different ethnic and religious groups will
·      Intensify cross-cultural dialogue in their schools and communities
·      Enhance trust and reconciliation in their schools and communitiesBe equipped with dialogue, reconciliation and peacebuilding skills and engage themselves accordingly in their schools and communities.

By finding mutual interactive opportunities through education and training, these youths coexist peacefully with others and work for sustainable peace and development of their societies. Expected results will include:
·      Reducing gaps created by mental and settlement polarization along ethnic and religious lines

·      Reducing prejudice and ignorance of culture and religion among youths
·      Breaking the cycle of violence occasioned by revenge mentality among youths
·      Transforming youths into peace agents in their school and communities.
Sessions will be alternated between youths from schools and their counterparts in the community with the view of eventually bringing them together to share learning and good practices.

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Research Findings: Strategies for Community Reintegration in Northeast Nigeria

Boko Haram (BH) members, abductees, and conscripts who have managed to escape or defect from the group are now attempting to reintegrate with their communities. However, such attempts have been met with resistance, as some communities perceive them to still be members of the group. In some cases, security agents, vigilantes, and community members have killed those attempting to return and reintegrate, leaving returnees/defectors even more traumatized. Furthermore, out of fear for the consequences when returning home, current BH members, abductees, and conscripts contemplating an escape or defection have fewer incentives to leave BH, which may be further empowering the group.

Dialogue, Reconciliation and Peace (DREP) Centre, with support from the Nigeria Regional Transition Initiative (NRTI) organized and facilitated 9 community-level meetings across 9 Local Government Areas (LGAs) in Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe States to generate community discussion about reintegration and the needs and expectations of different types of returnees. These two-day forums were held in three LGAs from each state and the tool/methodology used is appended.
The purpose is to understand community processes for reintegrating BH returnees and defectors to enable their safe return and to also enhance community trust and cohesion. This will in turn reduce the chances for unaccepted defectors/returnees joining or remaining members of BH.
It should be emphasized that the North-East is a large complex region impacted by the BH insurgency and this activity can only present a snapshot of the situation. Furthermore, accounts of the conflicts and responses gathered from communities are the subject of passionate emotions from both victims and perpetrators based on current state of mind and situations.

Below is an executive summary of findings. Full report will be available on request. 

  • Boko Haram members, abductees and conscripts who have managed to escape/defect from the group are attempting to reintegrate with their communities. 
  • Such attempts have met stiff resistance, as they are perceived to still be members of the sect. 
  • In most cases, security agents, vigilantes and community members have killed those who attempted to return. 
  • The purpose of this project is to understand community processes for reintegrating Boko Haram returnees/defectors. 
  • This will enhance community trust and cohesion as well as reduce the chances for unaccepted returnees/defectors to join or remain members of insurgent groups. 
  • DREP Centre organized Community dialogue on Reintegration of Boko Haram returnees/defectors in 9 LGAs across Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States. 
  • After the initial pilot dialogue in three (3) LGAs across Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States, a meeting was held to review the results and make recommendations for the next phase based on lessons learned. 
  • Findings from these community dialogues show the following: 
  1. Discussions around the Boko Haram Insurgency is very sensitive as it has heightened suspicion and mistrust among people.
  2. More persons, including women and girls, willfully joined the Boko Haram sect as against the number of persons that were forcefully conscripted.
  3. Most of these communities felt sad, betrayed and still live in fear at the realization that some of their community members joined the Boko Haram Sect.
  4. It is clear that defectors/returnees as well as those captured or forcefully conscripted, just like other victims of the insurgency across the Northeast, bear different degrees of trauma that need to be addressed.
  5. Communities are still skeptical of accepting these defectors/returnees who they consider to still be members of Boko Haram.
  6. Defectors and returnees are either killed by security agents, vigilantes and community members or are taken away to detention camps in Yola.
  7. Similar treatments are meted out on those that were abducted or forcefully conscripted by the Boko Haram Group as they are considered “contaminated”.
  8. There are communities where reintegration is considered impossible. This is understandable based on the present hurt and trauma experienced at individual and community level.
  9. However, where possible, conditions for reintegrating Boko Haram defectors or returnees include assurance of total rehabilitation of defectors, trust and confidence building, physical and psychological rebuilding of community structures, restoration of means of livelihood and temporal relocation of defectors or returnees. Some of these conditions are based on traditional or cultural practices.
  10. Also, there are existing structures, institutions and cultural activities/festivals that can be leveraged upon to promote reconciliation and reintegration. The challenge, however, is that the current situation is novel and the impact is huge.
  11. It is believed that Religious and Community Leaders can play a key role in the reintegration process due to their influence on the people. However, since they are frequent targets of attacks, their involvement in any reintegration process at the moment makes them suspected links or supporters of Boko Haram.
  12. There is need for creativity or innovation in adapting these practices or leveraging on existing structures.
In the light of these, the following proposals/recommendations are made for further action:
  • More community dialogue meetings on reintegration of Boko Haram defectors/returnees across the three States of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States. Selected community members that participated in the community dialogue on reintegration of Boko Haram defectors/returnees should be brought together to harmonize responses and findings from the meetings conducted already.
  • State level conferences be held across the three States of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe to educate people on the importance of accepting repentant defectors and returnees, emphasizing that this will weaken the Boko Haram support base and reduce the likelihood of them joining insurgent groups.
  • Immediate peacebuilding activities in these communities to rebuild trust and promote reconciliation among groups. This will help address the challenge of security agents and community members killing defectors that return back to the communities, thereby weakening the strength of Boko Haram. Engaging community members in this process endorses a sense of self- healing and reconciliation, which will in turn, promote stability for these communities in the future.
  • For the women and girls who have been rescued, as well as insurgency defectors, there is need for trauma healing and psychosocial support. This will be mutually beneficial to both victims and defectors as well as contribute to the overall deradicalization process for both victims and perpetrators of the Boko Haram insurgency.
  • Support towards restoration of means of livelihood and return of normalcy to most communities. It is crucial for the stability of Nigeria and States affected by the insurgency that provision is made for aid and ongoing support for both victims and defected perpetrators of the Boko Haram insurgency.
  • Religious and community leaders need to be organized and coordinated to first accept the idea of reintegration before they can impress on their followers to do same. They need to undergo trauma healing and psychosocial support sessions, as well as have their capacity in mediation and other peacebuilding skills enhanced.
  • Advocacy for deliberate government policies that will address the root causes of insurgency and extreme behaviors among citizens.

    Ogbonna, Chris Anthony, 
    Director of Programs, DREP Centre, Jos,
    Plateau State-Nigeria. 

    ...detail report is available on request.