Onaiyekan, Jega, others ask Buhari to address security challenge facing Nigeria

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has been asked to initiate a process of dialogue to address the multiple acts of violence across the country from inter-communal and ethno-religious conflicts.

In a statement titled ‘Mr. President, Governors: The Time for Dialogue is NOW’, Attahiru Jega, a former chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), John Cardinal Onaiyekan, a former Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, and others said Nigerians are facing “double suffering” due to insecurity and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

They asked the president to do everything possible to address the security challenge facing the country, even if it means sacking service chiefs.

Other signatories in the statement issued on Sunday include Martin Agwai, Fatima Balla, Jibrin Ibrahim, Aisha Muhammed-Oyebode, Nguyan Feese, Usman Bugaje and Chris Kwaja, who are all members of the Nigeria Working Group on Peace-building and Governance.

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“Nigeria, like the rest of the world, is battling the coronavirus pandemic. However, citizens in Nigeria are facing double the suffering because they also have to contend with rising insecurity and violence across the country,” the statement said.

“The Nigerian government must immediately address the rising insecurity, if it is to succeed in the fight against the pandemic. A recent USIP-commissioned survey in Nigeria found new linkages between COVID-19, instability, and conflict.

“In particular, 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,” it said.

They lamented that kidnapping for ransom is an acute concern across Nigeria, even as the North-East is witnessing resurgence in Boko Haram activity, and thousands of people are internally displaced by banditry across rural communities in the North-West.

“Criminality in rural areas further complicates the situation by undermining food security, as many farmers have been unable to go to their farms for months for fear of losing their lives,” the group said.

They said the crisis between herders and farmers had claimed thousands of lives and deepened ethnic polarisation but few persons had been prosecuted.

The group, therefore, called on the Federal Government to order the reinvestigation of all recent major incidents of farmer-herder violence.

They asked the government to sack the service chiefs if it would ensure that things 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,” the group said.

They asked the president to stop paying lip service to police reform, saying it is not enough to recruit police officers from the community but there is a need to train and re-orientate them towards building community partnerships and promoting durable peace in the conduct of their duties.

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