Curbing violent conflicts through govt-CSOs synergy



Observers are of the view that a genuine synergy among government, security agencies and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) is key to curbing violent conflicts in Nigeria.

Without doubt, they argue, violent conflicts constitute the core threat to peace, security and ultimately, the overall development of any country, hence the need for synergy among these critical actors to curb the conflicts.

They also note that there was the need to redefine the engagement of CSOs in conflict resolution and peacebuilding in Nigeria, as well as enhance the relationship between the CSOs and the state actors.

According to them, given the nation’s prevailing violent conflicts, it was high time government and security agencies partnered the CSOs with a view to holistically tackling Nigeria’s insecurity challenges.

In his view, Dr. Bakut Bakut, the Director-General, Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution, Abuja, there was an urgent need to build sustainable synergy between government and civil society groups in Nigeria.

Bakut observed that the best way, going forward, was for government at all levels, security agencies and CSOs to synergize and apply themselves to the art and practice of participatory governance in order to curb conflicts.

“There is need for a well-structured institutional arrangement for the partnership among civil society groups, government agencies and departments at all levels,” he said.

The Director-General noted that the relationship between the CSOs and government had been characterised by the challenge of distrust for one another, hence the need for collaboration.

“CSOs have often accused security forces of harassment, human rights abuse, unlawful detention and denial of assembly in line of duty, affecting their roles in peacebuilding.

“The media, which is an integral part of the larger society, operates in fear in Nigeria, so much so that they censor programmes and opinions to air to avoid being shut down,” he said.

Bakut gave his views on Oct. 23, 2020, while speaking at a two-day symposium entitled “The role of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in Nigeria’s Core Conflicts,” organised by the institute, in collaboration with a German foundation, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung.

Sharing similar sentiments, Dr. Chris Kwaja, an expert in peace and conflict resolution, while speaking at the same event, noted that a successful approach towards ending rural banditry would require deep synergy among all stakeholders.

He added that such approach, driven by CSOs, by putting in place structures and mechanisms for responses that are comprehensive and sustainable, would go a long way in tackling rural banditry.

“Collaboration between rural communities, security agencies and CSOs, is necessary because, for security agencies to launch successful country-banditry operations, it will require the strong support of the communities as key providers of intelligence.

“The ability of CSOs to develop a robust framework for community-level early warning and response, as well as conflict management, remains an important pathway for community cohesion in Northern Nigeria,” he added.

Contributing, Mr. Daniel Mann, the Resident Representative, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, said the symposium, which aimed at scrutinizing the various roles that government, security agencies and CSOs play in curbing violent conflicts, was timely.

According to him, “Militancy, insurgency, armed banditry and criminality have exposed the entire country to underdevelopment, insecurity and extreme poverty, amidst wealth and plenty.”

Mann also observed that: “Peace building is a product of a multiplicity of efforts and interventions, by both traditional and non-traditional security sectors, so government, security agencies and CSOs all have key roles to play.”

Similarly, Associate Prof. Joseph Ochogwu, Director, Research and Policy Analysis, (IPCR) noted in his paper that in curbing insurgency, government authorities, security forces and CSOs are critical in partnering towards peacebuilding and reconciliations in the North-East.

Ochogwu noted: “CSOs have the responsibility to initiate and partner with state and security actors to create innovative peacebuilding and conflict management approaches that will bring different parties together for reconciliation and healing.

“CSOs and security forces should leverage on the prominent roles of leaders of traditional and religious institutions in the efforts to rebuild and reconcile within the territories recovered from Boko Haram insurgents.”

He further observed that it was dangerous to militarise local CSOs and non-state actors like the Civilian JTF which are working alongside security forces in the war against Boko Haram insurgents.

“Boko Haram started as a religious civil society organisation but later transmuted into an armed violent non-state actor,” he added.

Borno State Governor, Babagana Zulum, viewed the main reason the Nigerian Army has yet to defeat the Bok Haram insurgency as owing to the military’s inability to build confidence in the local communities.

Speaking recently at the 2020 joint Chief of Army Staff Conference in Maiduguri, Prof. Zulum said the Nigerian Army must first review its fighting strategy against the insurgents by partnering with the communities.

He stressed that a strong collaboration and engagement of the civil populace by the military towards getting their buy-in as partners in the counter-insurgency war was very germane to ending the conflict.

“The Nigerian Army must also embark on confidence-building and confidence-sharing mechanisms with the communities and civil authorities they found themselves, so as to expose the terrorists, their collaborators and sponsors,” Zulum said.

Corroborating the governor’s viewpoint, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, Chief of Army Staff, admited that defeating insurgency was a function of the military’s collaboration with the civil society.

Buratai, while speaking with State House correspondents on July 20, this year, after meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari, Buratai stressed that ending insurgency was a collective responsibility of the military and citizens.

“As to whether banditry, terrorism and so on will end, I think it all depends on us. If Nigerians want it to end today, I can assure you, it will end, if everybody joins hands.

“It is not just the military, security agencies’ task to end the insecurity in this country. Everybody has a responsibility to discharge.

“It is also important for the press not to escalate the situation through reportage, giving prominence to the bandits and terrorist activities. This will go a long way in weakening them,” Buratai had warned.

Reinforcing all the aforementioned viewpoints, Prof. Dakas Clement Dakas (SAN), a Professor of Law and ex-Dean, Faculty of Law, University of Jos, agrees that synergy among the actors was critical and germane to curbing insurgency.

The don noted that synergy of the actors comes with the advantage of pooling their respective competencies and resources for fighting insurgency.

Prof. Dakas further said: “Synergy among civil society organisations, government at various levels and security agencies is critical to curbing insurgency.

“This is because they bring to bear their respective competencies and resources, as the case may be, in pursuit of the overarching and mutually reinforcing imperatives of ending insurgency in Nigeria.”

Observers and stakeholders are, therefore, generally of the belief that the antidote to ending Nigeria’s protracted violent conflicts is working out a genuine synergy among the CSOs, security agencies and government.

Longyen, a journalist and specialist in International Relations and Strategic Studies, wrote from Abuja.

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