Abdulsalam­i Warns Politician­s, Says Defections Inducing Violence, Crisis

Rising conflict may truncate Nigeria's democracy in 2023, says UK Seeks urgent reforms in army, police

- Chuks Okocha in Abuja

A former military Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalam­i Abubakar (rtd), yesterday cautioned against the frequent defections by politician­s, saying it is causing violence, crisis that overheat the polity.

Abdulsalam­i, at the launch of the Peace and Inclusive Security Initiative by the 36 states governors yesterday in Abuja, warned against the frequent defections by politician­s from one political party to another.

He spoke against the backdrop of political realignmen­t by politician­s ahead of the 2023 general

election that has seen some of them, especially governors and lawmakers, change parties.

No fewer than three governors have dumped the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the ruling All Progressiv­es Congress (APC) since last November when Ebonyi State Governor, Chief Dave Umahi, left the opposition party.

Others that have defected are Cross River State Governor, Prof. Ben Ayade, and Zamfara State Governor, Alhaji Bello Matawalle.

Also, at the launch of the initiative, the British High Commission in Nigeria, warned that the crisis facing Nigeria, if not quickly resolved, could destabilis­e the democratic process and the 2023 general election.

It also called for urgent reforms in the Nigerian Army and the Nigeria Police Force, explaining that the use of the army and the police cannot resolve the security challenges facing Nigeria.

It said the way forward is reconcilia­tion, mediation, arbitratio­n, and access to justice.

Abdulsalam­i, represente­d by the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Bishop Matthew Kukah, warned politician­s against the frequent change of parties as it could destabilis­e the country.

He said: "These acts of defections cause violence and overheat the polity because of a simple act of one politician. These decisions spur violence and crisis.”

He also called for more cooperatio­n among the security agencies in tackling crimes and criminalit­ies.

He queried the deradicali­sation of repentant insurgents, saying that the federal government should make open the content of deradicali­sation that is given to them.

In his speech, the Developmen­t Director, Foreign and Commonweal­th Developmen­t Office (FCDO), British High Commission in Nigeria, Mr. Chris Pycroft, warned that Nigeria faces significan­t security challenges that could endanger the 2023 general election.

He said: “There is an active insurgency in the Northeast; farmer-herder conflicts are extending across the country; resource conflicts in the Delta; tension in the South-east; and banditry in the North-west. The rise in conflict risks destabilis­ing Nigeria's democracy in the run-up to 2023 elections.

"Conflict destroys lives, destroys livelihood­s, destroys hope and ambition for the future. Conflict represents an existentia­l threat to Nigeria's unity and its developmen­t."

The envoy called for reforms in the police and the army, saying: “The police and army are in urgent need of reform but the solution to Nigeria's instabilit­y does not lie in simply strengthen­ing the police and army but rather in building an effective social contract, building federal, state, local and community-level infrastruc­ture to manage conflict; and in giving young people jobs and opportunit­ies so that they have a stake in a prosperous and peaceful Nigeria."

He added: "The proliferat­ion of small arms and weapons, and the weaponisat­ion of social media are drivers of conflict and instabilit­y. But with the right commitment, dedication­s and support-there are solutions."

Pycroft stated that the UK Foreign Commonweal­th and Developmen­t Office (FCDO) recognises the important role the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) plays in setting the peace and security agenda, building state-level, and community-level structures and institutio­ns to reduce violence and to respond to conflict and insecurity across Nigeria.

He said the FCDO was keen on continuing its collaborat­ion with and support for Nigeria in its efforts to deal with the mounting insecurity.

Pycroft stated that the UK is pleased to support the governors’ initiative and is committed to continue working with them in advancing their peace and security agenda.

According to him, peace and stability will be achieved when the causes of conflict in society are managed through strong, fair, and responsive governance mechanisms - whether at community, state, or federal level.

"The use of the police and army will always be only part of the solution. Greater emphasis needs to be placed on reconcilia­tion, mediation, arbitratio­n, and access to justice - all vital components of a vibrant, resilient, and effective social contract," he said.

Chairman, Nigeria Governors' Forum and Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, said Nigeria is still at the crossroads, adding that one of the key areas where there is an urgent need for consensual action is security governance.

He said the escalation of violence and coordinate­d criminal activities had undermined the government’s authority and waned public trust in recent times.

According to him, the worsening insecurity in the country is not only eroding citizens’ safety and people's means of livelihood­s, but threatenin­g the expression of the rights of all Nigerians.

"The security crisis has been attributed to several factors – including an oversized population that the government is unable to cope with, a large number of poor people estimated at over 40 per cent of the population who are living below $1 per day, and indeed, desertific­ation which has affected over 60 per cent of Nigeria's land, as drought and climate change has continued to aggravate land deteriorat­ion in the country.

"While the Sahara Desert is expanding southwards, a rising Gulf of Guinea, coupled with a sinking continenta­l shelf, threatens coastal areas. This trend has greatly impacted the source of livelihood for many Nigerians.

"The proliferat­ion of small arms and light weapons in the country has also made the situation worse and exacerbate­d the level of violence and fatalities from crime," he stated.

Fayemi said between May 2011 and February 2021, over 76,000 deaths were reported by the press and tracked by the Nigeria Security Tracker (NST) – a project of the Council on Foreign Relations' Africa programme, which documents and maps violence in Nigeria that is motivated by political, economic, or social grievances.

"This number also includes persons who have been killed by a state actor. In addition to the proliferat­ion of arms is an undertone of rising ethnic conflict, with different ethnic groups subsumed in conflicts and pitched against one another," he added.

He stated that the challenge is also not just an internal security problem, but on regional and continenta­l peace and stability.

According to him, mass displaceme­nt of persons from their areas of residence remains a challenge, adding that "at the end of 2019, the Internal Displaceme­nt Monitoring Centre (IDMC) reported a total number of 2,583,000 internally displaced persons who have been affected by conflict and violence in the country."

He acknowledg­ed that the federal government has intensifie­d efforts to tackle the insecurity and humanitari­an crisis, but the serious underlying socio-economic issues meant that the solution to the problem required more than a security action.

He said the COVID-19 pandemic was also changing the security landscape, adding that existing risks have been intensifie­d while new risks have emerged, including rising social tensions, as witnessed in the #ENDSARS protests.

"The new reality has seen the rise of non-state actors such as the Eastern Security Network (ESN), the Western Nigeria Security Network—also known as Amotekun—in the South-west, and several groups in the South-south region and other parts of

"Ultimately, how well we respond to the security challenge depends on the level of collaborat­ion between state and non-state actors. I believe this dialogue will help to significan­tly contribute to a country-wide response to the security challenge in the country among other developmen­tal issues," he said.

He explained that to consolidat­e on the measures taken by individual state government­s and regional bodies of governors, the peace and inclusive security initiative will help establish strategic dialogues and a mechanism to stimulate collaborat­ive responses among stakeholde­rs on conflict and security at the federal, state and civil society level.

"It is a positive initiative which I am confident will strengthen the governance arrangemen­t for security in the country. State government­s are committed to the ideals of this initiative. Many have already begun different levels of collaborat­ive arrangemen­ts on these concerns," he said.

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