…Says Efforts to Address Insecurity in the Country Should Be More Holistic …Insists Arrests, Prosecution, Locking Up People Are Only Small Parts of National Security. The Presidency says it is disappointed by the recently released United Nations (UN) Rapporteur Report on Violence in the country because it was largely silent on intra-group violence. It says
…Says Efforts to Address Insecurity in the Country Should Be More Holistic
…Insists Arrests, Prosecution, Locking Up People Are Only Small Parts of National Security.
The Presidency says it is disappointed by the recently released United Nations (UN) Rapporteur Report on Violence in the country because it was largely silent on intra-group violence. It says the UN representative needed to be “truthful and even handed” with her grasp of the issues, rather than blaming President Muhammadu Buhari for prevailing insecurity in the country.
“While we agree that the violence in Nigeria, or in any country, is a major concern and that there is a rippling effect, we are disappointed that the rapporteur was silent on intra-group violence,” says Mr Garba Shehu, senior special assistant to the President on Media and Publicity in a statement. .
“In Benue, Taraba, Cross River States and many parts of the country,” Shehu explains, “most of the casualties result from intra-group, inter-group and community violence. Many of the displaced persons across the nation are also victims of these conflicts.”
“There is absolutely no doubt that violence between farmers and herders, which has a long history in our country spiked in recent years but the effectiveness with which the Federal and State authorities responded made a big difference. Calm has virtually returned to all parts affected by the peculiar violence.
“Therefore, we are saddened that the rapporteur did not address intra-ethnic conflicts and cattle rustling as key elements in herder/farmer conflicts. In Benue State for instance, the Tiv/Jukun conflict and kidnapping is a major problem. We are glad that local communities have fully realized this, and scholars with a strong motivation for peace and stability in their communities and the nation are trying to address the problem.
“Ignoring the salient issues will not help to solve the problem. If you are going to address violence and the general insecurity in Nigeria, incidents everywhere should be part of the narrative. Not addressing this might make it easier to blame the Federal Government, but national peace and security is community based and a collective responsibility.
He insists that, “Arrests, prosecution and locking people up are only small parts of National Security and Safety strategy.
“In Benue State as cited earlier, the work of a US scholar of Tiv extraction, Professor Dick Adzenge deserves special mention for attempting to get aspects of violence addressed. The expectation that arresting and putting people in prison is the only credible response to violence is a mistake. Professor Adzenge and a few others like him are working with young people, traditional rulers and communities to seek peaceful resolution of conflicts and encourage peaceful co-existence.
“The sort of effort we are talking about here has so far revealed interesting facts about the problem in Benue State that cannot be ignored.
“And it is the sort of support we seek from the UN rapporteur in reporting, not the report that scratches the surface of the subject then ends up blaming the government under the able leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari. The UN representative needs to be truthful and even-handed in her assignment.
The UN Special Rapporteur, Ms Agnes Callamard had said the country was sitting on a pressure cooker.
“The overall situation that I encountered in Nigeria gives rise to extreme concern”, with issues like poverty and climate change adding to the crisis, said Callamard after presenting a preliminary statement at the end of her 12-day mission.
She pointed out that if ignored, the ripple effects of unaccountability on such a large scale, had the potential to destabilize the sub-region if not the whole continent.
“Nigeria is confronting nationwide, regional and global pressures, such as population explosion, an increased number of people living in absolute poverty, climate change and desertification, and increasing proliferation of weapons”, she elaborated. “These are re-enforcing localized systems and country-wide patterns of violence, many of which are seemingly spinning out of control”.
Ms. Callamard highlighted many areas of concern, including armed conflict against the Boko Haram terrorist group in the northeast; insecurity and violence in the northwest; the conflict in the central area known as the Middle Belt and parts of the northwest and south, between nomadic Fulani herdsmen and indigenous farming communities.
She also noted the prevalence of organized gangs or cults in Nigeria’s south; general repression of minority and indigenous groups; killings during evictions in slum areas; and widespread police brutality.
The UN expert said there were some positive signs, including progress against the extremist Boko Haram group and affiliates, as well as a decline in allegations of arbitrary killings and deaths in custody at the hands of the military over the last two years.
However, she noted little progress in terms of accountability and reparations for grave human rights violations in the past.
“I particularly urge the Nigerian Government, and the international community, to prioritize as a matter of urgency, accountability and access to justice for all victims and addressing the conflicts between nomadic cattle breeding and farming communities, fuelled by toxic narratives and the large availability of weapons”, she underscored.
While some high-profile cases of killings by the Police have resulted in the arrest and prosecution of the officers responsible and others involving clashes between Fulani herdsmen and indigenous farming communities have been investigated in Benue State, she said that “such examples of accountability remain the exception”.
“In almost all of the cases that were brought to my attention during the visit none of the perpetrators had been brought to justice”, lamented the Special Rapporteur.
“The loss of trust and confidence in public institutions prompts Nigerians to take matters of protection into their own hands, which is leading to a proliferation of self-protecting armed militia and cases of ‘jungle justice’”, she said.
Ms. Callamard called on the Nigerian authorities “to look carefully into my findings”, saying that she remains “available for further cooperation”.
During her mission, the UN envoy met government officials, local authorities and civil society as well as family members whose relatives had been brutally killed and people forced from their homes. Among the cities on her itinerary were Abuja, Maiduguri, Makurdi, Jos, Port Harcourt and Lagos.
Special Rapporteurs are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on the situation, which Ms. Callamard will do in June 2020. The positions are honorary and they receive no pay for their work.