*Rising conflict may truncate Nigeria’s democracy in 2023, says UK
*Seeks urgent reforms in army, police
Chuks Okocha in Abuja
A former military Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar (rtd), yesterday cautioned against the frequent defections by politicians, saying it is causing violence, crisis that overheat the polity.
Abdulsalami, at the launch of the Peace and Inclusive Security Initiative by the 36 states governors yesterday in Abuja, warned against the frequent defections by politicians from one political party to another.
He spoke against the backdrop of political realignment by politicians ahead of the 2023 general election that has seen some of them, especially governors and lawmakers, change parties.
No fewer than three governors have dumped the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) since last November when Ebonyi State Governor, Chief Dave Umahi, left the opposition party.
Others that have defected are Cross River State Governor, Prof. Ben Ayade, and Zamfara State Governor, Alhaji Bello Matawalle.
Also, at the launch of the initiative, the British High Commission in Nigeria, warned that the crisis facing Nigeria, if not quickly resolved, could destabilise the democratic process and the 2023 general election.
It also called for urgent reforms in the Nigerian Army and the Nigeria Police Force, explaining that the use of the army and the police cannot resolve the security challenges facing Nigeria.
It said the way forward is reconciliation, mediation, arbitration, and access to justice.
Abdulsalami, represented by the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Bishop Matthew Kukah, warned politicians against the frequent change of parties as it could destabilise the country.
He said: “These acts of defections cause violence and overheat the polity because of a simple act of one politician. These decisions spur violence and crisis.”
He also called for more cooperation among the security agencies in tackling crimes and criminalities.
He queried the deradicalisation of repentant insurgents, saying that the federal government should make open the content of deradicalisation that is given to them.
In his speech, the Development Director, Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office (FCDO), British High Commission in Nigeria, Mr. Chris Pycroft, warned that Nigeria faces significant security challenges that could endanger the 2023 general election.
He said: “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. The rise in conflict risks destabilising Nigeria’s democracy in the run-up to 2023 elections.
“Conflict destroys lives, destroys livelihoods, destroys hope and ambition for the future. Conflict represents an existential threat to Nigeria’s unity and its development.”
The envoy called for reforms in the police and the army, saying: “The police and army are in urgent need of reform but the solution to Nigeria’s instability does not lie in simply strengthening the police and army but rather in building an effective social contract, building federal, state, local and community-level infrastructure to manage conflict; and in giving young people jobs and opportunities so that they have a stake in a prosperous and peaceful Nigeria.”
He added: “The proliferation of small arms and weapons, and the weaponisation of social media are drivers of conflict and instability. But with the right commitment, dedications and support-there are solutions.”
Pycroft stated that the UK Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) recognises the important role the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) plays in setting the peace and security agenda, building state-level, and community-level structures and institutions to reduce violence and to respond to conflict and insecurity across Nigeria.
He said the FCDO was keen on continuing its collaboration with and support for Nigeria in its efforts to deal with the mounting insecurity.
Pycroft stated that the UK is pleased to support the governors’ initiative and is committed to continue working with them in advancing their peace and security agenda.
According to him, peace and stability will be achieved when the causes of conflict in society are managed through strong, fair, and responsive governance mechanisms – whether at community, state, or federal level.
“The use of the police and army will always be only part of the solution. Greater emphasis needs to be placed on reconciliation, mediation, arbitration, and access to justice – all vital components of a vibrant, resilient, and effective social contract,” he said.
Chairman, Nigeria Governors’ Forum and Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, said Nigeria is still at the crossroads, adding that one of the key areas where there is an urgent need for consensual action is security governance.
He said the escalation of violence and coordinated criminal activities had undermined the government’s authority and waned public trust in recent times.
According to him, the worsening insecurity in the country is not only eroding citizens’ safety and people’s means of livelihoods, but threatening the expression of the rights of all Nigerians.
“The security crisis has been attributed 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 per cent of the population who are living below $1 per day, and indeed, desertification which has affected over 60 per cent of Nigeria’s land, as drought and climate change has continued to aggravate land deterioration in the country.
“While the Sahara Desert is expanding southwards, a rising Gulf of Guinea, coupled with a sinking continental shelf, threatens coastal areas. This trend has greatly impacted the source of livelihood for many Nigerians.
“The proliferation of small arms and light weapons in the country has also made the situation worse and exacerbated the level of violence and fatalities from crime,” he stated.
Fayemi said between May 2011 and February 2021, over 76,000 deaths were reported by the press and tracked by the Nigeria Security Tracker (NST) – a project of the Council on Foreign Relations’ Africa programme, which documents and maps violence in Nigeria that is motivated by political, economic, or social grievances.
“This number also includes persons who have been killed by a state actor. In addition to the proliferation of arms is an undertone of rising ethnic conflict, with different ethnic groups subsumed in conflicts and pitched against one another,” he added.
He stated that the challenge is also not just an internal security problem, but on regional and continental peace and stability.
According to him, mass displacement of persons from their areas of residence remains a challenge, adding that “at the end of 2019, the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) reported a total number of 2,583,000 internally displaced persons who have been affected by conflict and violence in the country.”
He acknowledged that the federal government has intensified efforts to tackle the insecurity and humanitarian crisis, but the serious underlying socio-economic issues meant that the solution to the problem required more than a security action.
He said the COVID-19 pandemic was also changing the security landscape, adding that existing risks have been intensified while new risks have emerged, including rising social tensions, as witnessed in the #ENDSARS protests.
“The new reality has seen the rise of non-state actors such as the Eastern Security Network (ESN), the Western Nigeria Security Network—also known as Amotekun—in the South-west, and several groups in the South-south region and other parts of
“Ultimately, how well we respond to the security challenge depends on the level of collaboration between state and non-state actors. I believe this dialogue will help to significantly contribute to a country-wide response to the security challenge in the country among other developmental issues,” he said.
He explained that to consolidate on the measures taken by individual state governments and regional bodies of governors, the peace and inclusive security initiative will help establish strategic dialogues and a mechanism to stimulate collaborative responses among stakeholders on conflict and security at the federal, state and civil society level.
“It is a positive initiative which I am confident will strengthen the governance arrangement for security in the country. State governments are committed to the ideals of this initiative. Many have already begun different levels of collaborative arrangements on these concerns,” he said.