COMMUNIQUE ISSUED AT THE END OF THE STRATEGIC DIALOGUE TOWARDS ENHANCING STAKEHOLDER SUPPORT FOR IMPROVED PUBLIC SAFETY AND SECURITY IN THE SOUTHEAST ON THURSDAY JULY 27, 2023.
Theme: ” Fogs of Violence in the South-East: Exploring Pathways to Solution
CLEEN Foundation convened a virtual conference themed: “Fogs of Violence in the South-East: Exploring Pathways to Solution”. The conference gathered participation across the country and globally. It was indeed a gathering of scholars, practitioners and the academia. Stakeholders from the government made impressive attendance as well as members of the diplomatic corps. The event had in attendance representatives of civil society organizations from across the country, Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies including the Nigeria Police Force, members of the diplomatic community, Law Enforcement Agencies, community and religious leaders as well Ministries of Homeland Security and Peace and Institutions.
The core objective of the convening was to inspire a shared understanding of the existing and new narratives and challenges associated with the prevention of, and accountability for fatalities in southeast, Nigeria, with a view to enhance knowledge and understanding of the various forms and manifestations of security dynamics, contextualized within the southeast theatre of violence and instances of violations for the rule of law across region, and equip civic actors cause and effect, and demand accountability.
The virtual conference sought to explore the premise that: Fogs of violence, invariably, are criminalities that must be nipped in the bud, three deficits need to be confronted: the deficit of institutional capability on civilian protection; the deficit of justice system, and; the deficit of gender responsive mechanism.
- The Southeast region of Nigeria has witnessed a disturbing escalation of violence, resulting in loss of lives, destruction of property, and deep-seated fear within local communities;
- Observed that governance gaps are limiting the extent to which the citizens can interact with public officials to demand accountability for mass atrocities;
- It was past 730 days since the southeast region began to observe the weekly sit-at-home because of the separatist agitation to release Mazi Nnamdi Kanu. While the government of the region has made efforts to ensure that the sit-at-home does not continue, there has been significant resistance from those championing the order;
- This has again, resulted in the killing of civilians and loss of economic gains in the region; there is an estimate of 7.6-billion-naira loss because of the compulsory sit at home, completely grounding one of the most useful days of the week being Monday;
- The path to resolving conflicts in the region lies in open dialogue, understanding, and reconciliation. Stakeholders, community leaders, religious groups, and political leaders are considered pivotal in peaceful conversations aimed at addressing grievances and finding common ground;
- Imo state recorded the highest number of fatalities with 208 deaths, representing 32.7 per cent of the total figure within one year. Imo was followed by Anambra with 187 deaths, Ebonyi recorded 103 deaths, followed by Abia with 70 deaths, and Enugu recorded 68 deaths;
- While the Nigerian governments, through security agencies, have consistently indicted IPOB for the targeted assaults, even paraded suspected IPOB members behind the attacks, the group has denied responsibility. This leaves the situation in a perplexed state; the government’s stance on IPOB’s involvement in the attacks, the group’s unwavering denials and the continuity of the attacks. Moreover, there is a likelihood that other criminal actors may have capitalised on this perplexing situation to carry out attacks within the region undetected;
- Noted the need to strengthen grassroots communities’ capacity to implement early warning systems for detecting imminent attacks and taking appropriate safeguard measures against mass atrocities.
- Strategic dialogue. Vertical, horizontal, and inter-generational dialogue around what has led to the separatist agitation is critical to help the people to forge a pathway to peace.
- Developing Integrated Economic blueprint. It is possible for the South-East to serve as an economic hub for the country, particularly because of its cultural homogeneity, the hardworking strength of the people of the region in trading and the small size of the region.
- Prioritize and develop early warning systems in the South-East, which will help the region to leverage its unique structures such as the town unions to serve as the localised hub for early warning signs which will drive response to threats as soon as they are identified.
- Government needs to be accountable to the people, especially by engaging in regular town hall engagement and efficient use of the bailout funds by the federal government.
- Communities hold immense potential for promoting peace and stability. We urge communities to collaborate with local authorities and security agencies to prevent further escalation of violence.
- Strengthening the security outfit of the region. Both the formal and informal security actors should be strengthened to be more effective and accountable.
- Community violence reduction. There is need for disengagement program targeting youths in the southeast to disengage from crime, drugs, and other criminal vices. This should lead to more and more disarmament in the region.
- There is an urgent need for the creation of community leader’s forum headed by traditional leaders and monitored by civil society.
- All relevant stakeholder in the southeast must come together to rethink the separatist agitation and re access it momentarily in order to remedy the southeast region from the current security crises.
- Reassessment and disengagement from separatist agitation through a consensus is key.
- Improve law enforcement and intelligence gathering by strengthening the capacity of law enforcement agencies, such as the police and state security services.
- We emphasize the importance of upholding human rights and fundamental freedoms in all circumstances. It is crucial for security forces to exercise restraint and respect the rights of individuals while carrying out their duties.
- Community policing and engagement: Establishing a community policing approach can foster trust between law enforcement and local communities. Community members can actively participate in identifying and reporting suspicious activities, leading to a more efficient response to security challenges.
- Border security and regional cooperation: The region shares borders with neighbouring countries, and improving border security and cooperation with these countries can help in preventing criminals from exploiting weak points along the borders.
- Combat corruption: Corruption within security agencies can undermine efforts to address security challenges. Implementing measures to promote transparency and accountability within these institutions is essential.
- Promote interfaith and inter-ethnic dialogue: Promoting dialogue and understanding among different religious and ethnic groups can help reduce tensions and foster a sense of unity, making it more difficult for divisive elements to exploit differences.
- Support deradicalization and rehabilitation: For those involved in extremist or militant activities, providing opportunities for rehabilitation and reintegration into society can help break the cycle of violence.
- Media responsibility: The media plays a vital role in shaping public perception and understanding of security issues. Encouraging responsible and accurate reporting can help prevent the spread of misinformation and minimize panic.
- Strategic communication is key. The governors of the region would do well to adopt strategic communication in dealing with the people without undermining public safety and security.
Civil Society Community:
- Civil society needs to document the killings/ atrocities in the Southeast.
- Support the drive for a high-level truth and reconciliation Committee to address the issues using the Anambra State Truth and Reconciliation Committee template headed by Prof Chidi Anslem Odinkalu;
- Sensitization of the citizens on Civil-Military Relations, Civil-Military Cooperation and Civilian Protection.
- Promote youth empowerment and education: Unemployment and lack of education can contribute to insecurity as young people may be vulnerable to recruitment by criminal elements. By investing in youth empowerment programs and improving access to quality education, the region can create more opportunities and reduce the appeal of criminal activities.
It is crucial to recognize that there is no one-size-fits-all solution, and a multi-faceted approach is necessary to effectively tackle the security challenges in Southeast Nigeria. It will require sustained commitment and cooperation from all stakeholders especially political will to bring about lasting change and create a safer environment for the region’s residents.