Maj.-Gen. James Ataguba, the Chief of Standards and Evaluation, Nigerian Army, has advised the Federal Government to consider renaming the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs as Ministry of Peace building and Humanitarian Affairs.
Ataguba gave the advice on Friday at the second edition of the Aare Afe Babalola distinguished lecture series, held at the Afe Babalola University, (ABUAD) Ado Ekiti, Ekiti.
Atagua spoke on: “Building peace together in Nigeria: Dynamics, Perspectives, Challenges and Solutions.
He said that renaming the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs as Ministry of Peace building and Humanitarian Affairs would boost the fight against insecurity.
According to him, the Federal Government needed to formulate a cogent peace building policy, capable of effectively tackling various security challenges in the country.
“The Federal Government of Nigeria should rename the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs to Ministry of Peace building and Humanitarian Affairs.
“In the same vein, the Federal and state governments should make peace building initiative, a bottom-top approach.
“The Christian Association of Nigeria and Nigerian Supreme Council for lslamic Affairs should orientate their respective religious leaders on the need to embrace the teaching of forgiveness, reconciliation and acceptance.
“Traditional rulers should also endeavour to embrace community dialogue as a strategy to complement various government efforts at building peace, towards facilitating harmonious co-existence.
“All peace building stakeholders should develop capacity for full integration into government’s peace building initiatives”, he said.
Atagua said the various conflicts facing the country required not only government functionaries to tackle, but all known stakeholders.
“It is no news in this country of ours that some of the strategies the government had put in place to address conflicts and build peace had yielded results, though the menace continues within our society.
“Nevertheless, the government continues to develop various strategies to build peace that will promote sustainable development. However, if we put our strategies and resources together, we will be able to achieve peaceful coexistence.
“There is no doubting the fact that government had tried it’s best in putting in place an architecture to ensure peace building and promote national cohesion.
“Nevertheless, while the dynamics of insecurity is becoming unpredictable in the 21st century, there are challenges that need to be addressed in order to achieve the common goal of building peace.
“History is replete with situations where governments use various elements of national power, including the military, to ensure the safety and security of their territories and citizens.
“Recently, intra-state conflict in some African countries necessitated the employment of military operations to manage security challenges and ensure peaceful coexistence”.
The chief stated that Nigeria was bedeviled with several security challenges especially, banditry, kidnapping for ransom, insurgency, secessionist movements and ethno-religious agitations, amongst others.
According to him, the management of these conflicts continued to pose challenges to both the security agencies and stakeholders.
Atagua said the need for peace building in Nigeria could be understood by the astounding disclosure made by Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, the Sultan of Sokoto, while delivering a lecture at Harvard University in the U.S.
“The Sultan said: “Many people consider Nigeria as a theatre of absurd conflicts and interminable crises, with the Jos crisis festering for years, with post-election violence and suicide – bombings; it is difficult to think otherwise.
“When we consider Nigeria’s population of 150 million, half the population of West Africa, its over 250 ethnic and language groups, its regional and geo-political configurations, its landmass and its diversity in religion and culture, we may be constrained to reach a different conclusion”.
Atagua noted that within this assertion by the Sultan, who he regarded as one of the most respectable traditional rulers in Nigeria, the country had no choice but to constantly seek for peace building to protect her fragility, and prevent the escalation of constant conflicts that pervade the nation.
“Despite numerous efforts made by the government, which included the creation of various peace building bodies at both the Federal and States levels,
“Nigeria, as a nation, had continued to have its fair share of challenges to peace, as the nation continued to encounter various conflict situations, spawned by incongruous fusion of multi-ethnic groups.
“The country comprises over 250 multicultural ethnic entities, the consequence of this is the plaguing socio-political, economic, religious, ethnicity, and communal conflicts that continue to torment the nation and its inhabitants.
“Ethnicity, for instance, has continued to undermine the nation’s political development and has also cost the nation its economic development”, he said.
“Peace, as a social contract, is active and not passive. It is created through negotiation, adjustment, resolution and decisions. It comprises predictions and expectations about the future.
“It is manifested through cooperative interaction and its existence depends on congruence with the balance of powers,” he said.
Atagua said while peace building is not intended or an attempt at eliminating conflict from society, it is about building an environment for negotiation, reconciliation, mutual understanding, and compromise that allows for resolving conflict issues before it degenerates into violence and conflict.
He recalled that as at 2018, an estimated 3,000 people were killed in clashes between farmers and herders.
According to him, these clashes had additionally led to the displacement of at least,, 62,000 people, most of whom are women and children, with the hardest hit states being Kaduna, Benue and Plateau.
“These humanitarian costs have made the country lose an estimated $13.7 billion annually, while the hit states had lost 47 percent of their Internally Generated Revenue, due to these conflicts.
“This is a situation which requires urgent attention, given its present scale and likely future impacts”, he said
Chief Afe Babalola, Founder of ABUAD and legal icon, commended Gen. Ataguba, saying he never doubted his erudition and thinking capacity.
Earlier, in an address of welcome, the Acting Vice Chancellor of the University, Prof. Samaranda Oyerinde, disclosed that the lecture series started last year, in honour of Babalola.
He said the choice of Gen. Ataguba was deliberate, going by his acknowledged brilliance and track record. (NAN)