Experts advocate poverty eradication, restructuring to resolve conflicts

Almost every day, reports from several parts of the world are rife with all forms of violence.

From domestic violence, violence against women, children and vulnerable groups, to verbal and physical abuse, gun and physical fights, as well as religious and political violence; the list seems endless as new forms of violence spring up daily. This trend seems pervasive with no clear course of respite.

Statistics from an anti-domestic violence group, National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, estimated that in a year, more than 10 million women and men were physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States of America.

It added that hotlines for domestic violence received more than 20,000 phone calls daily while noting that domestic victimisation was connected with a higher rate of depression and suicidal behaviour.

The advancement in technology has further enabled the ease of perpetrating violence and crimes online without quick detection by law enforcement agencies.

Online violence refers to using the internet, digital devices and platforms to inflict physical, financial, psychological and or emotional harm on oneself and to others.

The European Union’s law enforcement agency, EUROPOL, in its report on Crime in the Age of Technology, noted that technology had become the key component of most criminal activities carried out by organised crime groups in the EU.

It added that technology, especially the internet aided the OCG’s “unprecedented degree of flexibility” by creating new forms of crime and facilitating criminality across other crime areas.

No doubt, Nigeria has had its share of conflicts. Several non-peaceful situations have been recorded right from pre-colonial Nigeria such as the wars in the Kingdom of Benin, the Oyo Empire; pre-independence Nigeria as the 1953 Kano riot and post-independence conflicts such as the Civil War amid several communal conflicts.

Recently, ethno-religious conflict, farmer-herders crisis, terrorism, ritual killings, violence against vulnerable groups and technology-aided crimes such as sextortion were conflicts disrupting the peace of the country.

The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention noted that communal conflicts were caused by reduced economic opportunities, high concentrations of poor residents, high levels of transiency and low levels of community participation, among others.

Relief Web’s 2022 Annual Review of Nigeria’s Violent Conflict Profile noted that over 60,000 lives were lost to insecurity in the last decade. This has further worsened poverty, displacement, destruction of property and mindless killings.

In this year’s Global Peace Index, Nigeria ranked 144th out of the most peaceful countries in the world. In 2019, 2021 and 2022, Nigeria ranked 148, 146 and 143, respectively.

The GPI is based on the Institute for Economics and Peace 2023 study on the level of ongoing domestic and international conflict, societal safety and security.

The study estimated the economic cost of violence in Nigeria at $100bn and nine per cent of the country’s GDP.

To strengthen the ideals of peace through the observance of non-violence and ceasefire and to “provide a globally shared date for all humanity to commit to peace above all differences and to contribute to building a culture of peace,” the United Nations General Assembly, declared every September 21 as the International Day of Peace.

This year’s theme is “Actions for Peace: Our Ambition for the #Global Goals.”

To commemorate the IDP, the experts urged Nigeria to review the imperatives and efforts to achieve relative peace and reduce conflict, aside the regular fanfare, conferences and speeches.

Commenting on the issue, a researcher on Conflict and Peace Building and a Professor of History and International Relations at the Federal University, Kashere, Gombe State, Noah Attah, stated that the ongoing conflicts, such as the ethno religious, farmer-herder crisis and terrorism deprived Nigeria of enjoying relative peace.

He decried the continuous conflicts and violence committed across the country without a resolution in sight despite several efforts.

The researcher noted that conflict was caused by an identity crisis and fuelled by bad governance, as well as poverty and the absence of pro-poor policies.

Attah said, “I wouldn’t say that there is relative peace in Nigeria. Originally, conflict in Nigeria, as defined by the civil war, has always been about an identity issue, whether political, ethnic or religious. This is a country of more than 500 ethnic groups, according to a recent statistic.

“The issue of peace within this conflict situation has been exacerbated by bad governance and young people readily being recruited into banditry, ritual killing and Yahoo yahoo, creating a lot of problems in Nigeria.”

To restore peace, the don called for the equitable distribution of the nation’s commonwealth, poverty eradication plans, access to education and just compensation and restitution for individuals whose livelihood and properties have been overtaken by terrorists.

He added, “There is no part of Nigeria that is insulated from conflict and the only way out is to have our commonwealth equitably distributed so that no one goes to bed hungry or wake up the following day without an assurance of what he or she would eat.

“According to sociologists, there is a thin line between poverty and conflict. If there is adverse poverty, people will go into crime and try to create a better situation for themselves. The issue of poverty eradication, education, and employing deserving people is important to peacebuilding. There should be pro-poor policy; unfortunately, the economic, political and social policies are all pro-elite. They are strategies to make the elite remain relevant and no deliberate attempt to resolve the challenges facing the poor people.

“No good policy has ever worked out except those that favour the elite or well-to-do, therefore, we will continue to create a cycle of conflict. Until we have a pro-poor policy, conflict will remain.”

He added that there was no policy to resettle and restitute the wrong done to persons attacked by bandits.

Attah described the diversion of funds earmarked for vulnerable groups as ridiculous, stating that this worsened the challenges over the years.

Should policies that favoured the poor be enacted, the don noted that there was the need for political will to ensure they were rightly implemented.

On his part, a Professor of Developmental Studies at the Niger Delta University, Bayelsa State and researcher on Peace Building, Ambily Etekpe, stated that relative peace could be achieved through constructive dialogue and negotiation with agitators.

The don stated that since most of the conflicts arose from politics and ethnicity, there was a need for political and ethnic restructuring.

He said, “Conflict, when managed, can generate positive outcomes but in the case of Nigeria, one of the ways we can achieve peace is through economic and political restructuring.”

Etekpe further noted that the concentration of power in the Federal Government made other groups subservient to it, calling for the equitable distribution of power and resource control.

He added, “While we have many political and ethnic generated conflicts, the 1999 constitution has compounded the problem such that the issues of violence in the North-East, South-East or Niger Delta.

“The constitution gave out 68 major activities that control our national lives under the exclusive list which is controlled by the president. Thirty-four of those activities are under the concurrent list, which means that the federal and state government control them, which makes 102 major factors of production to be under the Federal Government with zero allotments to the local government.”

The don further stated that negotiations should be held with agitators instead of the constant military actions.

“While we are celebrating, we should seek appropriate skill which is dialogue and not wait for the issue to degenerate before applying military might, which is not working. Constructive dialogue should be engaged to reach out to the aggrieved party,” he noted.

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