The British government has warned that the rise in conflicts can destabilize Nigeria’s democracy in the build-up to the 2023 elections.
The British government also blamed the frequent crisis across the country on injustice and impunity, as well as weak justice institutions in the country.
The Development Director, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), Mr Chris Beecroft, gave the warning at the launch of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) Peace and Inclusive Security Initiative (PISI) in Abuja on Thursday.
According to Beecroft, peace and stability could be achieved when the causes of conflict in society are managed through strong, fair, and responsive governance mechanisms at community, state, or federal level.
He stressed that the conflict represents an “existential threat to Nigeria’s unity and its development”.
He said: “The rise in conflict risks destabilising Nigeria’s democracy in the run-up to the 2023 elections.
“There is an active insurgency in the North East; farmer-herder conflicts are extending across the country; resource conflicts in the Delta; tension in the South-East; and banditry in the North West.
“Conflict destroys lives, destroys livelihoods, destroys hope and ambition for the future. Conflict represents an existential threat to Nigeria’s unity and its development.”
Beecroft explained that the use of the police and army would only be part of the solution, and called for greater emphasis “on reconciliation, mediation, arbitration, and access to justice – all vital components of a vibrant, resilient, and effective social contract.”
According to him, proliferation of small arms and weapons and the weaponization of social media, are drivers of conflict and instability.
Beecroft said the UK Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office recognised the important role the NGF plays in setting the peace and security agenda, and in building state and community level structures and institutions to reduce violence and respond to conflict and insecurity across Nigeria.
“The UK is pleased to have been able to support this initiative and is committed to continue working with the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) in advancing its peace and security agenda.
“The UK is engaged in supporting Nigeria to reduce violent conflict in a number of areas. We promote a regional response in the North East and Lake Chad Basin through our contribution to the Regional Stabilisation Facility (RSF) and delivery of programmes on peace building, humanitarian assistance, protection of civilians, human development, good governance and accountability,” he also said.
In his remarks, a former Head of State and Chairman of National Peace Committee, retired Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar expressed worry over what he called the instrumentalisation of violence,” noting that “violence has become a commodity in Nigeria.”
Abubakar, who was represented by Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, said Nigerians are in denial of the diagnosis.
Also speaking, the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum and Ekiti Governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi, noted that the spate of violence and coordinated criminal activities have undermined government authority and waned public trust in recent times.
He attributed the current security crisis in the country to several factors, including an oversized population that the government is unable to cope with; a large number of poor people estimated at over 40 percent of the population who are living below $1 per day.
“Indeed, desertification which has affected over 60 percent of Nigeria’s land, as drought and climate change has continued to aggravate land deterioration in the country.”
Governors Forum Director General, Asishana Okauru, explained that the launch was a significant step in the life of the Forum, calling for concerted efforts to build a nation where safety of lives and property is guaranteed.